Exactly one month ago, Niko Gallego was in baseball's version of purgatory.
He was healthy, but without a team, having been released out of spring training by Arizona.
On March 20 he was signed by Colorado and sent to Modesto, where on Wednesday night he contributed hits in two run-scoring innings as the Nuts beat Visalia 6-2.
"I'm real happy that the Rockies gave me the opportunity," Gallego said. "I got lucky and this might be a blessing in disguise. I'm happy to have a uniform."
But here's where the story gets interesting for the son of former major-league infielder and current Oakland third-base coach Mike Gallego.
Niko and Mike Gallego both played high school baseball under the same coach SoCal legend Mike Curran and both played college baseball at UCLA.
And now, with Niko Gallego's signing by Colorado and assignment to Modesto, the thread continues. Mike Gallego made his professional debut in 1981 as a second baseman for the Modesto A's.
"It's all really cool," Niko Gallego said. "He's gone through everything I've gone through, and I'm shooting him text messages and he's getting back to me as I deal with the daily problems. That's very helpful and it's very cool that's I'm able to go through this."
And there was a special silver lining to this particular two-hit game for Gallego. He spent the 2012 season playing the infield for South Bend in the low-A Midwest League and on Tuesday had 11 teammates from last season playing for Visalia.
"All those guys are close friends of mine, and it makes it easier to go out there and play when you know those guys," Gallego said.
"They're yelling at me, getting on me and I was giving it back. I knew it was going to be weird, but it was fun. I tried not to get too wrapped up in all of that and keep my head in the game."
He did, for the most part.
Gallego's line-drive double into the left field corner gave Modesto a 2-0 lead in the second inning, and he came up again in the fourth with a run in, runners at first and second and no outs.
At that point, he missed a bunt sign from manager Lenn Sakata, only to come through with a bloop single to load the bases.
When Tyler Massey followed with a two-run double to center and David Kandilas added an RBI ground-out, Modesto had a four-run inning its largest uprising of the young season and a comfortable lead.
"Niko's contributed quite a bit already," Sakata said. "He's picking up some of the hitting changes we're trying to make and is moving in the right direction. The big hit he got in the fourth, he was supposed to be bunting, but he missed the sign. He made us look good."
In a first in pro baseball history, two pitchers named Winkler faced each other as starters, with Modesto's Dan Winkler (2-0) getting the best of the Rawhides' Kyle Winkler (0-2.)
The Nuts' Winkler allowed a run on three hits over five innings, then Geoff Parker, Nelson Gonzalez and Will Rankin cleaned up from there as Modesto levelled its record at 7-7 heading into a seven-game road trip through Stockton and San Jose.
There was a rumor spreading during the game that Mike Gallego was going to be in attendance, heading over from Oakland after the A's beat Houston in an afternoon game.
He never made it, so clubhouse manager Darren Kent got busy and taped a picture of the A's coach to his son's locker.
"I also heard he was going to be here tonight," Niko Gallego said. "I didn't put him on the pass list, so I hope he didn't make it. I'd hate to have him get here and not be able to get a ticket."
Brian VanderBeek can be reached at (209) 578-2150 or follow him on Twitter, @modestobeekCatching prospect Swanner not worried about slow start at plate. For details, read Brian VanderBeek's blog at modbee.com/blogs.