Homer off Kershaw 'shock moment' for O'Neill

Homer off Kershaw 'shock moment' for O'Neill

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Tyler O'Neill came into the at-bat with some accolades.

The 21-year-old was the MVP of the Southern League last season, won the Mariners' Edgar Martinez Hitter of the Year Award and ranks 36th overall (and second for Seattle) on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list.

Then again, the pitcher O'Neill was facing in Friday night's Cactus League win over the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch wasn't anything like the Double-A opponents O'Neill crushed to the tune of a .293/.374/.508 line with 24 home runs, 102 RBIs and 12 stolen bases in 2016. He had a few more notches under his baseball belt than O'Neill, in fact.

He was Clayton Kershaw.

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O'Neill has come this far because he's good and he's confident, and that continued on Friday night and paid off with a memorable moment. After watching a fastball right down the pipe hit the catcher's mitt for a strikeout in his first at-bat against the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, O'Neill expected another heater on his first pitch the next time around.

He got it, and he hit it out of the ballpark.

"I got a pitch to hit, found the barrel and let it fly," O'Neill said on Saturday. "It tied the game up. It was kind of a little bit of a shock moment that somebody just hit a home run off Kershaw, but everyone was fired up. It was cool."

Kershaw K's O'Neill, fans side

O'Neill made a few headlines last March when he homered off Felix Hernandez in a simulated game. This time around, he didn't want to make too much of the homer other than acknowledging that it was fun.

"It's Spring Training, obviously, so it's a little more relaxed feel for everybody," O'Neill said. "I really wanted to see what the Cy Young winner is all about, and obviously he's got good stuff, and I got a good pitch to hit and put the bat on it."

In his third at-bat against Kershaw, O'Neill struck out on three straight curveballs, but at least for now he's got another story to tell.

"It was kind of like the best of both worlds," O'Neill said. "I was not too excited, but I was also excited to see what he was about. It was a good experience for me."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.