Gallardo sets season goals
Gallardo is not quite the Brewers ace and he’s no longer the promising prospect, either. But the right-hander has a few goals this season. He knows he’s got to stay healthy, and he wants to put Milwaukee in the thick of a postseason chase after reaching the playoffs last season for the first time since before he was born.
The now-23-year-old married father with a 3-year-old son is setting an example. Gallardo is no clubhouse clown. Often, his only telling sign is a smile that hides the secret of just how much fun he’s having.
“I’ve never been like that. I got married, my son—I just thought about I’ve got someone looking up to me,” he said. “I’ve got to do things right, be careful what I do. I guess that was one of the main things.”
Gallardo watched his father, Jorge, get up every day before dawn and often work 12 hours or more as a welder in the Texas heat. When his dad would get home, he kept giving advice to Yovani, the oldest of four siblings.
Gallardo, who immigrated to Fort Worth, Texas after being born in Michoacan, Mexico, when he was 4, said the message was clear: Go to school. Set high goals for yourself.
“And have a job that you love to do so you don’t have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning, get home (late), worn out after another day out in the heat,” said Gallardo, who called his parents first after being called up in 2007.
Gallardo went 9-5 with a 3.67 ERA in 17 starts that year. Last season was supposed to be his breakout, but it turned out he just broke down with injuries in both knees, including one in a harrowing flip during a game against the Cubs on May 1 that tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Gallardo didn’t give up on the year, returning in time for a postseason start and throwing seven innings, giving up three unearned runs, in the loss to Philadelphia.
Jason Kendall said what impressed the veterans was Gallardo’s determination to return even though the injury can keep players sidelined for eight months or more.
“It speaks for itself. Most guys would have been done,” Kendall said. “He came back in four months. He worked his (butt) off to be out there. He should be proud of himself for doing that. That just says a lot, he has the potential—in my mind, but what do I know?—of being a Cy Young winner. He’s that good. He’s a 23-year-old kid that has the poise of a 15-year veteran.”
Gallardo also decided to skip the World Baseball Classic, even though he acknowledged it was upsetting not to get to pitch in Mexico City. But he knew it was the right thing to stay in Brewers camp, especially since he missed part of last year’s due to arthroscopic surgery after tearing meniscus in his left knee.
The Brewers see Gallardo as possibly the biggest piece of the plan to replace departed free agents CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets. But, he’s only thrown a total of 141 1-3 innings in his career and less than 400 more in the minor leagues since being drafted in the second round in 2004.
“I’m very confident if he gives you 30 to 32 starts and 175-180 innings, he’ll put up good numbers,” general manager Doug Melvin said. “With any young player you just don’t want them to lose confidence. He’s a good worker, he knows his routine. There’s nothing we have to do a lot of with Yovani.”
But Melvin said it’s hard to judge how Gallardo will deal with failure because he hasn’t had any real problems beyond the injuries.
“We haven’t been able to evaluate him with a lot of failure because he hasn’t had it. We know how hard he worked through the rehab process and he’ll work hard. He understands the game, he’s a very bright guy that understands the game, understands what he has to do to get hitters out,” Melvin said.
Gallardo already gets that he can’t replace Sabathia or Sheets, but he’s expecting more for himself.
“The main thing whether it’s me or the other four guys, the main thing is go out there and pitch the way you’ve been pitching before. Both of those guys were a huge part of the team, but you’ve just got to step it up,” Gallardo said. “It gives us an opportunity to show what we’re capable of doing.”