John Tomase

Tyler O'Neill comes to Red Sox with encouraging mindset

Boston's new outfielder seems genuinely excited about his opportunity.

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The Red Sox don't just need to build a better roster. They could also stand to add players who really want to be in Boston. Enter Tyler O'Neill.

The slugging but oft-injured outfielder, acquired recently from the Cardinals, made no secret about his happiness over his new home in an interview with Rob Bradford on the Baseball Isn't Boring podcast.

"Obviously, I could have gone anywhere, but I'm so grateful that it turned into the Red Sox organization," O'Neill said. "There's just so much history, so much legacy, so much success, recent success.

"I'm still pumped up it was the Red Sox, man, honestly. I'm looking forward to flying out there and checking in with some of the guys. I'm looking forward to get going, looking forward to taking aim at that Monster, all the above, and just experience the fan base, experience the city. It's just going to be great."

There are two ways the O'Neill experience can go. The best-case scenario is a reprisal of his 2021 season, when he slammed 34 homers and finished eighth in the National League MVP voting. The other direction is the last two seasons, which have been marred by injuries costing him over 150 games.

O'Neill has spent time on the injured list with a sprained ankle, a bad back, sprains of both hamstrings, and a right shoulder impingement.

As a result, he is reworking his offseason conditioning program under a new trainer to focus on flexibility and range of motion, but the challenge of being hurt all the time is that injuries tend to beget injuries.

"I feel like my range of motion is better than it's ever been," he said. "My strength is back to where it needs to be. And I really like what I'm doing right now. I'm going to be getting on a back program pretty soon here and everything's lining up to be ready in spring training right on time. I like where I'm at a lot right now."

The muscular O'Neill is a classic Fenway Park hitter of yore, with fly-ball power to left field. He said he plans on trying to backspin the ball to center, where it's "only" 380 feet, though the wall in left will be a tempting target.

He has made one visit to Boston as a player, going 6 for 12 with a homer during a three-game set in 2022.

"It was awesome," he said. "We stayed in a nice hotel, we stayed downtown, the city is super clean from what I saw, it's very well-kept, the ballpark is obviously very historic. I mean, you don't see anything like Fenway anywhere else. The really cool part about baseball is every stadium has different dimensions, different restaurants, different views, different batters' eyes, but there's no Green Monster anywhere else. It's just crazy.

"Playing left field at the time, it was a new experience for me to learn how the ball came off the Green Monster and how to field it. The uniqueness of the dimensions is what really intrigued me and I just couldn't get over it. I couldn't get over it since a couple years ago.

"I don't what it's going to look like, whether I'm going to be playing right, center, or left. I'm down to play wherever, but it's such a unique ballpark, like right-center, it goes out into a little corner out there and loops around the right field line. It's like 300 feet down the right field line, and 300 feet down the left field line. The ballpark really gets me excited to show up every day. I would definitely say that's a standout for me."

With a drain of homegrown stars like Xander Bogaerts and Mookie Betts in recent years, as well as World Series winners like Nathan Eovaldi and J.D. Martinez, the Red Sox have lost the ties that gave their clubhouse continuity. They've also lost one of last year's leaders in Justin Turner, who is a free agent.

O'Neill sounds genuinely excited about coming to Boston, which counts for something.

"There's something about those old ballparks, it hits home for me," he said. "And Fenway fits the bill, thankfully."

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