Tacoma Rainiers

Mariners prospect Tyler O’Neill getting hot after cold start

Mariners prospect Tyler O'Neill, shown hitting a double in spring training, has picked it up after a slow start to the Triple-A season. In his last four games entering Tuesday night, he’s hit three home runs.
Mariners prospect Tyler O'Neill, shown hitting a double in spring training, has picked it up after a slow start to the Triple-A season. In his last four games entering Tuesday night, he’s hit three home runs. AP

Tyler O’Neill doesn’t know exactly when, where or how; he just knows it happened.

O’Neill, one of the Mariners’ top position player prospects entering the season, is hitting again, batting .333 with three home runs and nine RBIs during his past seven games.

“It’s kinda hard to explain,” O’Neill said about his recent surge. “It’s more so in my head than being able to explain it verbally to you guys.”

O’Neill, in his first exposure to Triple-A, hit .167 first 24 games of the season. He’s pushed his batting average to .223 and his on-base percentage to .301 entering Tuesday’s game against the Las Vegas 51s.

Rainiers manager Pat Listach said he thinks O’Neill’s success is partially because of his patience at the plate. O’Neill, 22, has seven walks in as many games. For comparison, O’Neill needed 19 games to get his first seven walks of the season.

“When he’s taking his walks like that, he’ll get better pitches to hit,” Listach said. “That’s promising as well. You always wanna see him swing the bat, but early in the season, he was swinging at some bad pitches and getting himself in some trouble. He’s not doing that right now, which is good.”

O’Neill saw his discipline come to fruition Monday against the 51s. The former third-round pick started and capped off Tacoma’s eight-run comeback, which began with a solo home run in the sixth inning. O’Neill provided the game-winning hit – an RBI single in the eighth inning – for the 9-8 victory.

“He was dealing,” O’Neill said of Las Vegas’ Alberto Baldonado, who he touched for the game-winner. “He was putting five pitches wherever he wanted. I was really looking for a pitch over the plate, got the two strikes, same approach, same game plan, and I finally got a fastball I could drive and did something with it.”

O’Neill said he knows slumps are part of the game, but making the necessary adjustments and leaving his comfort zone was important in his transformation as a hitter.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re Ken Griffey Jr., or if you’re in Triple-A like I am,” O’Neill said. “It’s getting good pitches to hit, being on time, and putting the barrel to the ball as often as I can.

“ … finally I’ve done something that’s gonna do that.”

Luke.garza@thenewstribune.com

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