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Cole Tucker Showing Positive Signs in His Return to West Virginia

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CHARLESTON, WV – On August 30 of last year, as his teammates clinched the South Atlantic League North Division championship with a home win against the Lexington Legends, Cole Tucker lay in bed 2,000 miles away in Los Angeles. Just days earlier, he had undergone surgery for a torn labrum. His prognosis at the time suggested 10-12 months of rehab and recovery.

A mere eight months later, Tucker walked on the field as the starting shortstop for the West Virginia Power once again.

Tucker struggled at first, especially at the plate. In his first seven games, he hit .172 and did not record a single walk. His on-base percentage of .167 limited his ability to manufacture runs with his speed. Manager Brian Esposito, though, never questioned whether Tucker had returned too quickly.

“He’s as aggressive as he was last year,” Esposito remarked. He went on to say that he hasn’t noticed any tentativeness in Tucker’s approach at the plate or on the field.

That aggression has started to work to Tucker’s advantage.

“I had some bad luck early on,” said Tucker. “Diving catches, line drives that got snagged. I’m hitting the ball harder than I ever have.”

Those hard hits have started to fall in the last five games. Over that span, his batting average is .333 and his on-base percentage is .455. He has started to walk more regularly and, as a result, has scored a run in four of the last five games.

The Power have even moved Tucker to the top of the lineup, which should be good news for the rest of the club. Tucker has considerable speed on the base paths, though it has yet to manifest itself in stolen bases this year. He will now be hitting in front of Tito Polo, who has added major power to his litany of baseball skills, and Ke’Bryan Hayes, who has been the best hitter on the team. Already Tucker has more runs scored and total bases than his fellow shortstop Tyler Filliben, even though Tucker has played in eight fewer games.

As a shortstop, forced to make long throws and twisting leaps moving away from first base, a shoulder injury can be extremely detrimental to development and arm strength. When Tucker went down with the injury last season, many questioned how the surgery would affect his efficacy in the field. His arm strength has long been a question mark and one of the major road blocks on his way to success at the higher levels.

Tucker, however, seems unfazed by that area of his game. “Last year, the throws hurt,” he admitted, “but now, my shoulder feels good.”

So far, his fielding has been up to par. He has already turned seven double plays in his first twelve games, and he has seemed comfortable ranging as far as the lip of the outfield grass to make throws.

Perhaps the best news here is that Tucker is still young. Although it is his second year at the Low-A level, at 19 years of age, he is one of the youngest players on the team. He’s seven months older than Hayes, who is also 19. Tucker is also 2.3 years shy of the average age for the level.

His youth also enabled him to bounce back more easily after the injury, according to Esposito.

“It was a wake up call for him,” Esposito said. “Now he has ownership over his body. He’s smart, and if something feels off, he’ll let us know.”

That kind of awareness, responsibility, and maturity are rarely evident in a player so young, but Tucker has handled his rehabilitation with patience and poise.

“I take it day by day,” he said, adding, “I know it sounds cliché, but I’m just trying to stay healthy.”

No more hospital beds. No more rehab. No more missing team celebrations.

“I want to be on the field for the last game of the season, wherever that may be,” said Tucker.

If he continues to progress, we think that last game could very well be in High-A with the Bradenton Marauders, a truly impressive finish for this young player.

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