Cole Tucker Has Shoulder Surgery, Out 10-12 Months

The Pittsburgh Pirates announced on Wednesday that shortstop Cole Tucker had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder today and the recovery from that injury is usually 10-12 months. The surgery was performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles. That means that Tucker will miss most of the 2016 season, possibly the entire season if it’s the top end estimate. Best case scenario is that he returns in early July.

Tucker last played on July 28th and for awhile he was just icing his shoulder, remaining with West Virginia on the bench. He was finally put on the disabled list a couple weeks later and went for an opinion on his shoulder. The Pirates had the shoulder looked at by a second doctor this week and they decided to have the surgery.

In his first full season, the 2014 first round pick hit .293/.322/.377 in 73 games, showing some defensive skills at shortstop. He also stole 25 bases in 31 attempts. It was a fine season, especially when you consider his age in low-A ball. Tucker turned 19 at the beginning of July, so he was at an advanced level for his age. Since he is still so young, he could return to West Virginia at the end of next year and still be considered young for the level.

UPDATE 5:53 PM: Thoughts from Tim Williams…

It’s strange how much the system has changed in terms of shortstop depth in just a short amount of time. A few years ago, losing a shortstop prospect like Tucker to injury would have been a big blow to the system depth. Now? It almost clears up a playing time issue. Next year the Pirates would have had Kevin Newman likely ticketed for Bradenton, with Tucker going back to West Virginia and possibly moving up to Bradenton in the second half. That would have eliminated shortstop as a possibility for Kevin Kramer, and would have held Adrian Valerio back from an aggressive push.

Obviously you want Tucker healthy and creating that scenario. He’s one of the best prospects in the system when he’s healthy, and really started showing his potential in his last two months in West Virginia, after a slow start to the year. The biggest concern with any shoulder injury is whether the arm strength will return. That could hurt Tucker’s chances of sticking on the left side of the infield in the future, which might hurt his value a bit. That’s a small concern now, and mostly something to focus on when he returns.

Right now the concern would be getting him back healthy. On the short end of this timeline, he could be back for the second half of next season, which could still put him on pace for Bradenton in 2017. He’s so young that even if he loses a full year, he’d still end up as one of the youngest players in the Florida State League if he went there in 2017.

  • I’ve had that surgery, it sucks for rehab. Very painful and slow. Best of luck to the kid!

  • Smelled that one for a few weeks.

  • piraterican21
    August 26, 2015 7:27 pm

    Tim mentioned and I will follow, I had labrum surgery and I can tell you that your arm strength is no where close to been the same, granted mine was over 20 years ago and much has change, but it wouldn’t surprise if Tucker ends up at second

    • I wondered about this myself. I think that surgery is the death sentence for a pitchers career.

      • piraterican21
        August 26, 2015 7:47 pm

        He’s a tall kid, maybe he bulks up and end up having enough strength to play 3b

        • Yea, he’s still awfully young like they mentioned. If you’re going to have an injury like that better now than 25.

      • Not a death sentence. Some have bounced back with the same velocity. Others haven’t. There are a lot of variables.

    • Many pitchers have come back successfully from labrum surgery. For example, Roger Clemens, Al Leiter, Curt Schilling, Chris Carpenter, Anibal Sanchez, Gil Meche, Jose Valverde, etc. And it should be much easier for a SS – since he doesn’t have to worry about throwing breaking balls. No guarantee – but also not a bleak picture.

      As for arm strength, you can’t compare surgery to a non-athlete who had a non-athlete’s rehab to a pro baseball player who has an elite surgeon who has done the same surgery for many other athletes. The above pitchers and many others regained their velocity.

      • And, don’t forget, elite physical therapists and personal trainers. They will spend more on people to help him through the rehab than most people make in a year.

      • piraterican21
        August 27, 2015 10:06 am

        Wait, are you saying I’m not an elite athlete, but I play poker!

  • Such a tough year for injuries.

  • Bummer, though it is crazy to think he could miss a year and still be at an advanced age for his level. Helps clear up playing time going into next year.

    • Best case scenario has him returning right at his 20th birthday(July 3rd) which is still a very good age for Low-A. Of course, we won’t know anything until next year. He could miss the season if he takes longer. Just gives Tim more work to do at Pirate City next year after Spring Training ends

  • Ouch….just ouch.

Menu