Prospect Tucker soaks in big league experience

Shortstop plays three innings in Bucs' win over Tigers

Prospect Tucker soaks in big league experience

LAKELAND, Fla. -- Last August, you could have found Cole Tucker playing at Tigertown, inhabiting the back fields along with his Gulf Coast League teammates.

Tucker will be back at Joker Marchant Stadium eventually as part of the Pirates' Florida State League affiliate. But first, the 18-year-old shortstop got a taste there of life in the big leagues.

Tucker made his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday in the Pirates' 7-3 win over the Tigers, playing three innings at shortstop. He only had to make one play, and he was left standing in the on-deck circle in the ninth inning, but the day was no less memorable for Tucker.

"This is definitely way cooler. It's that motivational piece," said Tucker, the Pirates' No. 9 prospect. "This is where you want to be, and I'm working my tail off over there to make sure this can be my office one day, not just chilling on the back fields. It's really cool."

Tucker, picked 24th overall last year out of Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, hit .267/.368/.356 in 48 games for the GCL Pirates last season.

When he was informed he'd be heading to big league camp, Tucker said, "I was like, 'Oh, my God, I've got to put on a collared shirt or brush my teeth or do something.'"

Did he at least have a moment to soak it all in?

"Like, 37 moments to soak it in," he said, beaming as he stood in front of a small locker in a crowded visitors' clubhouse. "Obviously I'm focused on the game, but I was just looking and thinking. I was like, 'Oh, my God.' I started playing baseball in my grandparents' living room, and now I'm in a Major League game.

"It was unbelievable."

Around the horn
• The Pirates have to add left-hander Clayton Richard to their 40-man roster by Wednesday or risk losing him. Richard has an April 1 opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to become a free agent.

"We're working through the process, and our plan still is to get Richard back to the Major Leagues, hopefully for us," general manager Neal Huntington said Tuesday morning. "We feel he is close to Major League-ready."

Andrew McCutchen went 2-for-3 with an RBI double and two runs. He now has seven hits in his last 13 at-bats and is hitting .333 this spring.

Francisco Cervelli launched his team-high-tying fourth home run to straightaway center field off David Price in the fourth inning.

• Reliever Antonio Bastardo pitched a perfect fourth inning Tuesday. He has recorded 10 strikeouts in his last five outings, the last four of which have been scoreless.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.