BRADENTON, Fl. – Cole Tucker was in a wheelchair being rolled through the airport last August, one day after his labrum surgery. He got an alert on his phone, and when he checked it, it read: “ESPN: Pirates’ First Rounder Cole Tucker Out 12 Months With Labrum Surgery.”

“I was like, ‘I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that it doesn’t really take that long,'” Tucker said. “I think it’s been seven-ish months, and we’re getting close to being ready for game action, and that’s really exciting, and it’s a testament to everyone who has helped me with my rehab and recovery.”

Tucker threw from the shortstop position today, which was actually the second time he’s done that since the surgery. The first came on Wednesday, with a few easier throws on the backfields. Today, he set up on field four at Pirate City, and took about 15-20 grounders, including going to his right for some longer throws for the first time.

“It felt great,” Tucker said on the deeper throws today. “I threw them, and it doesn’t hurt. Last year, I tore the labrum in May, and every throw from then on, until I had surgery in August, really hurt. It’s relieving to not have that pain anymore.”

Tucker collided with a first baseman in Delmarva on May 23rd, and believes that is when the injury happened. He ran into the first baseman when he came into the baseline on a flip from the pitcher, and fell hard on his shoulder. A few weeks after that, Tucker said his shoulder started hurting.

By the end of July, Tucker was starting to get more days off due to the shoulder. He was scratched from a game in late July, which sparked trade rumors. He played his final game on July 28th, then spent about ten games out of the lineup with an ice pack on his shoulder after games, before finally being placed on the disabled list. He had surgery on August 26th.

The rehab process has gone better than expected for Tucker. He told me today that he feels like nothing happened, and that his arm strength feels the same as it did before the surgery. The focus now on the field will be building up the volume of throws, then getting him into games at shortstop, where he will start with three innings and build from there.

Offensively, Tucker was limited from the left side a few weeks ago, but is now even from both sides in his effort during batting practice. He has stood in to track pitches during live batting practice this week, and will probably start swinging during live BP on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the pitching schedule.

“Obviously, I didn’t enjoy surgery. I didn’t enjoy the rehab process,” Tucker said. “But I’m really enjoying how I’m coming out of it. So it’s going to be really fun to get out and start playing and throwing some people out.”

At this point, Tucker said it’s looking like he could return in April, which is much different than his original timeline which would have put him out until July or August. The return in April is still up in the air, and barring any setbacks.

When he does return, it will be interesting to see where he is placed. The Pirates have a lot of shortstop prospects in the system at the lower levels. Last year’s first round pick, Kevin Newman, looks like a candidate to move to Bradenton. Tucker could go back to West Virginia for the first half, but then he’d be blocking Adrian Valerio — a talented fielder who could make the jump from the GCL. Tucker did start hitting well his final two months before the surgery, and without considering other factors or other players, he looks like he’d be ready to start the year in Bradenton. But no assignment has been given yet.

“I would love to,” Tucker said of starting the year in Bradenton. “I think I’m ready for it, and I’m excited by the opportunity to get to Bradenton and play everyday, and play shortstop, and help the team win. I’m excited.”

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Very happy for the youngster. Now he can get to what he loves, playing baseball. I hope he is fully recovered and that there are no lingering aftereffects.

  2. It is great news, and a major step forward from what we saw at Pirate City on Thursday and Friday. Being safe and incorporating a long toss shuffle into the throw is something the rehab folks have probably demanded.

    I realize that Kevin Newman only had 38 games at Short Season, and barely 20+ games at Lo A after the draft, but he fields well, handles himself well, and his hitting came around. He impresses as a player who can handle an aggressive move. Since 2016 will be his age 23 season, can he handle a promotion to AA? Taking the place of JaCoby Jones who was traded to the Tigers. That would leave Hi A for the 20 year old Tucker, and Lo A for the 20 year old Valerio.

    • Beat me to it…his bat is supposed to be good and fielding should be alright too…I think he could handle the jump.

      • Newman led the Cape Cod Summer League in hitting in 2013 (.380) and 2014 (.375). He hit .370 in his Junior year for Arizona and the PAC 12 is always loaded with strong pitching. At Cape Cod he fielded .980 at SS in 2013 in 40 games and .940 at SS in 2014 in 33 games. More than a few services had him higher in the draft, but his stock fell slightly in 2015.

        More than all of that, he has a desire to show that he should have been drafted higher than No. 19 – possibly in the Top 3. I would love to see the Pirates give him the opportunity, and we need a strong hitting and fielding SS in the upper minors, just in case.

  3. I’m sure this is a case of looking too closely at something after someone brings your attention to it but…his throws look awkward to me.
    I have a bad shoulder socket and can’t really throw much anymore and his short compact throwing motion reminds me of me using more arm, protecting my shoulder. He also always takes the two steps which maybe something he needs to do for now but slows down the delivery. And he throws don’t have much life on them (but that might be an optical illusion from the video angle.

    Also – almost two months to diagnose the kid tore his labrum!!! It’s not like Cole hid the injury as they had to constantly rest him. Is that the kind of attention that a first rounder gets?

    • Tucker has always had that weird throwing motion. I think I wrote about that last year.

      I also don’t think he was throwing full strength today, considering it was his second day throwing.

      Labrum tears are hard to diagnose, especially when it’s a small tear like this one. I was actually talking with my brother about this a few weeks ago. He’s in his first year of medical school, and right now they’re learning every part of the body and every nerve or muscle in each region. We were talking about sports injuries, and he said the shoulder is just a mess, because there’s so much in there, and it’s so hard to get a good read on what could be the problem. So that’s probably why it took so long.

      They also put him on the DL in early August, and he didn’t get surgery until late August. And that was after ten days off. So it took about a month from him to stop playing until he had the surgery, and that wasn’t because of booking the surgery. Unfortunate, but a really hard situation to diagnose.

      • Thanks for clarifying. I must have missed that previous article. But I’ll blame it on your site for putting up too much content to keep up with…

      • If I understand his quotes he said every throw in June and July hurt. It’s too bad if he wasn’t telling the staff until August, or nobody thought it was that bad. It is good to hear he has no pain at all post-op and rehab.

    • yes, there are way too many steps in his delivery, was it always this way or is this just slowly getting back to full throwing motion.

  4. Valerio hasn’t shown he can hit, right? Why not start him in Morgantown, with mid year promotions to all three.

      • True, but I don’t see the value of having Tucker and Valerio on the same team this early in their careers.

    • Eh… I think the speedy recovery of Jung Ho tops this but this is exciting. I like Tucker’s ceiling alot and think he could be much better than Newman.

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