Pirates option Cole Tucker in roster moves, turning shortstop job into 2-man race


Mar. 24—Join the conversation


The Pittsburgh Pirates‘ shortstop competition became a two-man race when Cole Tucker was optioned Wednesday, leaving Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman left to fight for the starting job.

Tucker, the Pirates’ 2014 first-round pick, had returned to the middle infield this spring after spending last season in the outfield for the first time in his career.

“Obviously, challenging conversations with a bunch of guys, and one with Cole,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “There are some things that we have identified with him and discussed with him. Actually, the conversation with him was one of the better ones I’ve been in. When you send guys out, he was extremely thoughtful. He had really good questions about his personal growth and things that we identified.

“Sometimes, when you have those conversations, as soon as you tell guys they’re being optioned, they shut off. He was great. He asked questions. He asked specific questions. We talked about things that he had done in spring training, things we felt he needed to do better and really gave him a plan of attack of things we thought could be helpful moving forward.”

The 24-year-old Tucker fell behind in the shortstop battle after missing more than a week with a thumb injury. Tucker batted .174 (4 for 23) in eight Grapefruit League games this spring, while Newman is hitting .727 and Gonzalez .400.

“We talked coming into camp that it was going to be a competition,” Shelton said. “The other two guys at that position have played extremely well, so that does play into part of it. The thumb issue was unfortunate, but I think it’s about the things that we can identify for Cole to get better and continue to develop on.”

Tucker was one of seven players cut from major league camp, optioned along with right-handed pitchers Sean Poppen and Miguel Yajure. The Pirates also reassigned first baseman Will Craig, catchers Joe Hudson and Andrew Susac and outfielder Troy Stokes Jr. and, after Wednesday’s game against Atlanta, left-handed pitcher Braeden Ogle and outfielder Hunter Owen to minor league camp.

Poppen, who has a 4.50 ERA this spring, is scheduled to start Thursday against Baltimore.

Stokes, a dark horse in the competition in center field, batted .222 with a double, two home runs and four RBIs in 13 games this spring. That leaves Anthony Alford, Dustin Fowler and Brian Goodwin to battle for the starting job in center and a possible fourth spot in the outfield.

The Pirates now have 38 players in major league camp, including 22 pitchers, three catchers, eight infielders and five outfielders.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .


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