Prior to Saturday night’s two-game homestand finale against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, I had the chance to sit down with Tulsa Drillers outfielder Tyler Massey. Entering Saturday night’s action, Massey was batting .162 with one homer and four RBIs. He also has swiped a team-leading five stolen bases. Last year at Class A Modesto, Massey posted a .267 average with 11 homers and 53 RBIs.
While Massey may be struggling at the plate with the Drillers, he has quickly established himself as one of Tulsa’s defensive leaders. In the first two innings of Friday’s game against the Naturals, Massey turned in a pair of defensive gems. In the first inning, he made a diving catch to rob Jorge Bonifacio of a hit. In the next frame, Massey fired a pinpoint throw to catcher Dustin Garneau after Parker Morin’s single to keep Whit Merrifield from scoring.
Henry: Tulsa is off to a 10-11 start. Talk a little bit about how the early part of the season has gone for the team.
Massey: We’ve gotten off to an OK start. Our pitching has been outstanding and our bullpen has been wonderful. Our pitching has kept us in a lot of games and we’ve been able to win some of those. We have to be more sound fundamentally. When there are less than two outs, we have to be able to move the runner over and we haven’t done that a lot this season. I like where we are and where we’re heading. We just have to all continue to relax and not press. We have to trust our abilities and stick together as a team.
Henry: What about your season personally?
Massey: I started strong out of the gate, but I’ve been pressing a lot lately. I have to trust my abilities and keep swinging. Last night, I had a couple of good hits, but they turned into lineouts. I keep telling myself it’s early and take things one bat at a time.
Henry: So when you’re hitting the ball well but it’s still resulting in outs, how do you keep your positive attitude?
Massey: I don’t know the secret. I come to the ballpark every day and I’m grateful that I’m able to play. I know I’m getting some solid hits and I’m just going to keep that mentality. I know I can swing a bat at this level. I’m going to keep playing aggressively and doing everything I can on defense. I’m going to trust my approach and that things will turn around.
Henry: I know you take a lot of pride in your defense. Talk about focusing on that when you’re struggling at the plate.
Massey: Our pitchers are doing a great job and I want to do everything I can to cut down on their pitch counts. I know that every day when I come to the field, I can bring attitude and effort. I can focus on baserunning. I can focus on defense. I can do that every day to help the team.
Henry: When you heard you were coming to Tulsa before the season began, what was your reaction?
Massey: I had heard great things about the stadium and I was excited to see the city. Since I’ve been here, I’ve learned a lot about the Texas League. With all of the times you see the other guys and other teams and all of the scouting that goes on, I think it’s as close as you get to the Major League level in that respect.
Henry: What’s been the biggest thing you’ve noticed about Double-A pitching?
Massey: Texas League pitchers attack the strike zone and they come after you. They’re also not afraid to throw their secondary stuff and attack both sides of the plate.