O'Neill returns to lineup after dispute with Marmol

April 7th, 2023

MILWAUKEE -- Cardinals center fielder was back in the starting lineup for Friday’s game in Milwaukee, three days after his hustle while running the bases was called into question by manager Oliver Marmol and one game after not starting on Wednesday.

O’Neill, who was thrown out at home while trying to score from second base in the seventh inning of a loss to the Braves on Tuesday, was back in the lineup on Friday largely because of his history against Brewers right-hander Brandon Woodruff, whom he has homered off three times in 15 at-bats. He was also back in the lineup, Marmol insisted, because there are no hard feelings over a situation that mushroomed into a controversy earlier in the week.

Following Tuesday’s loss, Marmol approached O’Neill in the clubhouse about his baserunning and then referred to it as “unacceptable” in his postgame news conference. Marmol stood by that stance the following day. On Friday, he said he is simply holding the speedy outfielder to the high standards expected of every player on the team.

“There's a difference between -- and this is what I want to make sure is very clear -- there's a difference between holding a grudge and holding someone accountable,” Marmol said prior to Friday’s game against the Brewers. “They're two completely different things. Holding a grudge is holding on to something once you've already made your point. Holding someone accountable is very different.

“It's your ability to sit down with a player before the lights come on and before the stadium is packed and ask them what they want for themselves, what they want for the team and allowing them to articulate exactly that,” added Marmol, who noted that he is fully cognizant about which criticisms should stay in-house and which ones can be aired publicly. “Then, it’s asking them for permission to hold them to that. And then, when it doesn't look right, you hold them to that.”

Marmol has said for weeks that he thinks the 27-year-old O’Neill is headed for a big season following the work he put in during the offseason. After setting career highs for home runs (34) and RBIs (80) in 2021, O’Neill struggled through an injury-marred 2022 campaign. He wasn’t even with the team for the Wild Card Series against the Phillies because he was in Arizona trying to rehabilitate the second of two hamstring injuries.

O’Neill admitted that his injury history might have played into how hard he was running when he rounded third on a rainy Tuesday night.

The musclebound O’Neill remained in St. Louis much of the offseason to work with the Cardinals' strength and conditioning staff to develop a running form that wouldn’t make him so susceptible to leg injuries. The two-time Gold Glove Award-winner as a left fielder used his improved conditioning to win the starting center fielder job out of Spring Training. He homered on Opening Day for a fourth straight year to tie an MLB record. He came into Friday hitting .278 with two RBIs, while playing well in center field.

It's just the start of what Marmol believes can be another career year.

“I like Tyler O'Neill,” Marmol said with a big smile. “I think he's one of the most talented players in that clubhouse. But there's a next step for Tyler and his career and my job is to get him there.”