Cole Tucker’s Rehab is Ahead of Schedule and He Plans to Remain at Shortstop

BRADENTON, Fl. — Cole Tucker, the first round pick for the Pirates in 2014, went down at the end of the 2015 season with labrum surgery. The procedure was originally supposed to keep Tucker out for 10-12 months, which would have put him returning to action late in the 2016 minor league season. However, Tucker seems to be well on the early side of things, and might even return much sooner than the original timeline.

“It’s going to be sooner, rather than later,” Tucker said of his return. “I feel really good. Everything has been smooth so far with the rehab process, and everyone has been great — the training staff and the front office staff, my rehab team back home. It’s been going way better than I thought it was going to be.”

Tucker arrived at Pirate City about a week ago, and has been throwing, hitting, and taking ground balls as he finishes up his rehab process. He’s been throwing at home since January 1st. At the moment, the throwing is limited to his throwing program, which just reached 120 feet for the first time today. He hasn’t been throwing to first base yet during his fielding drills, and isn’t sure when that will be.

“Throwing program has been going great,” Tucker said. “Just playing catch and stuff has been nice and easy. Just continuing with that, and then when they say I can get on the field and throw across the diamond, I’ll be ready.”

Cole Tucker, returning from labrum surgery, taking grounders at shortstop with no throw to first yet. #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

Tucker took batting practice today after fielding practice. He took some soft tosses from the right side, and looked to be further along from that side. His work from the left side is currently limited to hitting off a tee and underhand tosses.

“I’ve got to be a little more careful left-handed, per protocol from the doctor and training staff,” Tucker said. “It feels really good. I don’t feel a difference. I feel pretty normal, which is encouraging being February and they told me I was going to be out until September. I’m feeling really good.”

Better video of Cole Tucker taking swings from the right side. Article up on shortly. #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

Now Tucker taking swings from the left side #Pirates

A video posted by Pirates Prospects (@piratesprospects) on

One big question about Tucker is whether his injury would force a move off the shortstop position. Labrum surgery always has a question mark in regards to arm strength. For now, Tucker is being prepped for shortstop, with no position change in sight.

“No one said anything about me moving,” Tucker said about the shortstop position. “I don’t really plan on it. I feel like I can handle it. My arm feels just like it did before surgery. I don’t see a move to be necessary. Obviously, I’ll play wherever they tell me, but right now I feel like I’m a shortstop.”

There’s currently no word on when Tucker will get into games during Spring Training, or an exact date for his timeline. The current progression would make it seem like he will return much earlier than the previous timeline. He said that everything feels good with his shoulder, and he feels “almost normal”.

“I would assume it would be sooner than [August]. I feel great,” Tucker said. “I don’t know if it’s because I’m 19 and I heal really fast. I know it’s super cliché to say a setback can be a good thing, but this whole process has been great. I’ve gotten stronger, been able to work on some things I wouldn’t have been able to before. It’s been great. It’s been a really good experience. Having surgery obviously sucks. Going through rehab for six, seven months obviously sucks. But once I get back to playing, it’s going to be really fun. I can’t wait.”

  • I wish they could somehow get these kids a “workout” year that didn’t involve playing baseball. In essence, pretend there is an injury. It seems like there are good habits to learn and bad habits to unlearn. It’s just a shame that it only happens after injuries

  • Good news! And I hope his return goes well. He looks tall and gangly in fielding drills – at least compared to how Kang looked in his videos

  • I really like his swing from the left side. Has more lift. Boy, it must be great to be 19. You body heals faster. Hop to see him live play some time this year.

  • Maybe a DH early In the season?

    • For now I’ll stick by my guess from last month that the first time we see him in a regular game is as a DH in the GCL season opener. He will probably see some time in Extended Spring Training, but I think that game will be his first official game of the season.

      I’d be surprised if the Pirates rush him back, even if he is feeling good. For example, Nick Kingham was already throwing from 120 feet in December, yet there is no chance he will be ready by Opening Day, even though 120 feet in mid-December suggests otherwise. They seem to always err on the side of caution for young players.

  • I see him moving to third once he fills out, just my uninformed opinion.

  • Until we’re sure he can make all the SS throws, I will be apprehensive.

  • Impossible to not like this kid.

  • Hi Tim….he looks more muscular and powerful than the high school draft videos. Is it obvious to you seeing him in person as well? Or is it my imagination?
    I don’t know what is going on at the TRIB and Travis Sawchik, but if you want a good laugh check out their sports page and some Spring Training coverage. Here is what they say:
    Biggest Offseason Move:
    Re-Signing Sean Rodriguez
    Biggest Loss:
    Keon Broxton
    I am not joking.

  • The picture that was tweeted showing Kang–wow nasty looking skin grafts on his leg. Coughlan should be arrested.

  • peanutbutterguts
    February 15, 2016 11:55 am

    If he could realistically be back by mid-June, that would be a coup for the farm system considering him missing all of 2016 was floated as a possibility when his surgery was announced.

  • Super great news. I was in doubt when his name was called in the draft, I think my reaction was who in the hell is that?, but he has exceed my expectations and think he may be the Pirates starting shortstop in a few short years. Get back soon, stay healthy and continue your progression to the show.

  • Awesome. I like his ceiling much more so than Newman.

    • I agree, but it does not hurt to have a lot of quality MI prospects. When he first went down, it was a major blow to the Pirates, and I hope he continues to advance in his rehab at a rapid pace. I know the 120′ is a controlled throw and probably not many reps, but that is probably further than most throws from SS to 1B.

      • I was worried he was going to lose a whole year. I like Newman and he seems like he has a nice floor but Tucker just looks like he could really break out.

        • Tucker is a kid who, if he develops, could be that dynamic SS who can field the position well, although not exceptionally, but has a big bat that makes him a big WAR player at SS

          • Yeah, I feel he has the potentially to explode. I feel the same way about Meadows. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Meadows is in the top 5 by season’s end.

            • I think Meadows is a future top 5 prospect for aure, maybe even #1 if his power develops.

              • You can look at the numbers and say they are not dominant but the fact that he’s still just 20 years old says volumes. Now, he may not be a generational talent like Trout or Harper but he definitely has the tools to be one of the best players in the game. Cutch was good prospect but I don’t anything expected him to be just as good as he is and I think Meadows is definitely a better prospect than Cutch was at the same age. I’m not saying he’s going to be better than Cutch or even as good, I’m just saying there’s reason for optimism than he’s gonna be a really good ballplayer.

  • Met him in Charleston Sc. Terrific kid We have met quite a few of the prospects when they come through town to play the local Yankee farm team and I have been impressed with most of their young men. Josh Bell was terrific to talk to as well. Pulling for him to make the big squad this year!

  • Such a likable kid. It’s good to hear he’s progressing.

    • Encouraging attitude if nothing else

      • And think, he was already more advanced than Newman.

        • Newman is already what he will be. Average. I just don’t get that pick. He better start preparing now for a utility role because that’s his upside.
          Tucker has upside, and if he puts the time and effort into it his upside could be a very solid starting big league shortstop.

        • I doubt he is more advanced than Newman. Maybe if he had gotten to play all year but probably not even then.

          • A higher level of competition at a younger age and better results…

            • …both small sample sizes and one guy making the adjustment after a full year of college. Sometimes college players are burnt out and stumble a little initially. Still, you are right…Tucker was looking pretty damn good before the injury.