Mariners rookie Tyler Locklear making good early impressions

Jun 13, 2024, 5:45 PM

Seattle Mariners first baseman Tyler Locklear...

Tyler Locklear of the Seattle Mariners reacts after he was hit by a pitch during a 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are getting a close look at one of the top prospects in their talent-rich organization with first baseman Tyler Locklear up with the club for his first stint in the major leagues.

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The 23-year-old Locklear made his MLB debut Sunday in Kansas City, and he’s already found ways to contribute to the lineup through his first four major-league games.

Locklear joined Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy on Tuesday for a conversation about his promotion to Seattle and his first games as a Mariner.

Locklear found out about his call-up to the majors the day prior to his debut while preparing for the Tacoma Rainiers’ game against the Reno Aces. Locklear was getting ready to hit the batting cages when bench coach Eric Farris told him to head to manager John Russell’s office.

“Skip asked me if I could play outfield, and then he said, ‘Well, good thing you don’t have to play outfield here, because you’re going to play first base for Seattle,'” Locklear said. “So it was just a really cool feeling and caught me off guard, and I made a bunch of phone calls after that and everybody was really happy for me.”

Welcome to The Show

The Virginia Commonwealth product didn’t have to wait long to register his first MLB hit. In just his third at-bat, Locklear sharply hit a ball into the gap in right-center field for an RBI double that gave Seattle a 2-1 lead in the top of the seventh inning against the Royals.

“It was just great, especially being able to do it in a situation I did it and just get an extra run for the team and having (Mitch Haniger) score from first on it,” Locklear said. “It was just really a good feeling and kind of a little bit of relief off your shoulders getting the first one out of the way.”

He made his T-Mobile Park debut the following day against the Chicago White Sox and checked with a single for his first hit in front of the home crowd during Monday’s dramatic 8-4 walk-off win.

“It was awesome, especially the crowd here,” Locklear said of his home debut. “These people love baseball here. … That big eighth inning, they got loud here, and then the walk-off happened and you couldn’t hear anything. So it was really awesome to play in front of these people.”

Locklear’s single that marked his first home base hit wasn’t necessarily the most notable thing that happened to him Monday. In his final at-bat during the eighth inning, he took a 98 mph fastball from Chicago’s Michael Kopech off the bill of his helmet and hit the ground hard, but quickly got up and laughed off what could have been scary moment for the rookie and the club.

“It was just one of those close ones,” Locklear said. “It’s just that’s what baseball is, honestly. You never really know when somebody’s going to lose it, and he didn’t mean it, but just thankful that it didn’t hit me in a bad spot and I was able to get up and laugh it off with everybody.”

Good early impressions

Locklear has checked in with a base hit in three of four games, including all three of his starts, since debuting. Hitting is what helped Locklear become the No. 94 prospect in Baseball America’s top 100.

“I think everybody in the organization always felt he was going to hit, and I think he’s learning a lot getting some exposure at the Major League level,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said before Thursday’s matchup. “They pitch a little bit different here. You’re going to see more strikes with the breaking ball maybe, and the velocity picks up, but he’s handled it really well. I think the one thing I’ve noticed about him, he’s not afraid to make quick adjustments, which is a really good sign for a young player.”

Locklear was one of the top hitters in the Texas League this season and slashed .291/.401/.532 with 12 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 26 RBIs in 41 games with Double-A Arkansas. That led to his promotion to Tacoma, where he hit .300/.417/.475 with two doubles, one triple, one home run and seven RBIs in 10 games with the Rainiers.

While hitting is what Locklear is known for, Servais also highlighted his efforts and improvement on the defensive end.

“I think he’s done a really nice job at first base, and that was an area of focus for him when he left spring training,” Servais said. “He wanted to get better defensively, be more comfortable around the bag and the different plays and whatnot. He’s looked good over there.”

Listen to the full conversation with Seattle Mariners first baseman Tyler Locklear at this link or in the audio player near the top of this story. Tune in to Bump and Stacy weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. or find the podcast on the Seattle Sports app.

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Mariners rookie Tyler Locklear making good early impressions