ANAHEIM, Calif. -- More than speed or power or any physical talent, Mike Gallego's feistiness is what made him so desirable that the New York Yankees gave him a three-year, $5.1-million contract. If the Yankees had forgotten that, they received a couple of stark reminders this week. Gallego, quickly tiring of his do-nothing role, came forward to make a case for himself with his words and bat.
Gallego, previously only an expensive 25th man, has talked and hit his way into the Yankees' plans. It now appears Gallego will start against most left-handers in a change that carries the potential to annoy the other infielders, notably the lifetime .338-hitting Wade Boggs, who sat the past two games.
Gallego felt better Tuesday afternoon, when he said his role was "clarified" in a chat with manager Buck Showalter. It was precipitated by unflattering comments Gallego made in USA Today. Gallego punctuated his rare happy day with his first career two-home run game in Jimmy Key's 5-0, one-hit victory over the California Angels on Tuesday night.
"I want to contribute. I feel like I owe that to the organization," Gallego said. "I want to work. That's what I'm paid to do."
Gallego made these same points in frequent talks with the Yankees. His frustration mounted until Sunday, when he went 2-for-5 in his first start, a 10-9 victory against the Mariners in Seattle.
Gallego's frequent talks may have helped. But what aided him more were failed trade talks. Showalter delayed inserting Gallego into any semi-regular role because it appeared Gallego would be traded. Besides, the Yankees considered second baseman Pat Kelly, shortstop Spike Owen and third baseman Boggs everyday players.
Showalter conceded the Yankees were "basically" waiting for a deal, but he noted: "We were only hurting ourselves as a team. Gags has a lot to offer us. I didn't feel like I treated him with the respect he was due. He's the type of player we wanted to surround our team. It's hypocritical of me to say that and not play him.
"It's not because of any sympathy for him or hope for a more harmonious clubhouse. He's going to play for one reason, because he could help us win."
Though he was disturbed enough by Gallego's public comments to seek him out, Showalter said Gallego's words were not the impetus to the change. Gallego, frustrated by his non-role, told USA Today, "Everyone wants to be liked, but no one wants to be lied to." Gallego was unhappy neither he nor Kelly was informed until Opening Day that Kelly won the job and that he wasn't getting clear answers from Showalter since.
"I said what I said, and I'm not going to apologize for it. But at the same time, I respect Buck too much to make it an issue," Gallego said.
"I said some things to the paper that I probably should have said to Buck. The way he called me in and straightened it out, that shows the professionalism Buck has. The last thing I want to do is mess with his integrity. But at the same time, I wasn't going to just sit there."
Gallego will do much less sitting now, which means Showalter's next long talks may be with Boggs. Showalter said he sat Boggs on Tuesday instead of Owen or Kelly because of Boggs' 5-for-28 history against Chuck Finley.
However, Showalter waited until first hearing Kelly and Owen were physically fine before delivering the bad news to Boggs, known as a player cognizant of personal numbers. Asked if he met any resistance from Boggs, Showalter said, "Sure, he wanted to play. I was very impressed with his response. He said, 'You do what you feel is right for the club.' "