Kevin Gorman: Pirates’ seek for shortstop of future begins with Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker

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BRADENTON, Fla.

Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker are former first-round picks who play the identical place for the Pittsburgh Pirates. With regards to their efficiency, the shortstops are extra opposites than something.

The place Newman had a nondescript debut within the main leagues in August 2018, Tucker made an unforgettable first impression by hitting a two-run walkoff dwelling run in his first at-bat final April.

The place Tucker was nice along with his glove however struggled on the plate, Newman confirmed he may hit major-league pitching however admits he has room for enchancment as a defender.

“We all the time joke that should you may put my glove and his bat collectively, we might be an All-Star,” Tucker mentioned, with fun. “That’s tremendous ironic.”

What the Pirates would love is for each to be All-Stars, even when meaning one ultimately has to play one other place.

Newman additionally performed second base, third base and left discipline final season earlier than settling in because the beginning shortstop. Tucker by no means has performed something however shortstop however joked he could be the bullpen catcher if meaning staying in “The Present.”

After slashing .308/.353/.446 with 12 dwelling runs and 64 RBIs in 130 video games as a rookie final season, the 26-year-old Newman begins spring coaching with a stronghold at shortstop.

Theirs is a contest price watching, as one’s strengths are the opposite’s weaknesses. They’ve been pals since Newman was Tucker’s host on a recruiting journey to Arizona however are battling for a similar job. It’s not nearly who would be the starter this season however the Pirates’ shortstop of the long run.

“No matter what one man’s strengths or weaknesses, they’ll feed off one another,” Pirates supervisor Derek Shelton mentioned. “In any scenario the place we now have competitors, I feel it makes us higher organizationally, and it makes that particular person place higher. Anytime you’ve got wholesome competitors and guys are round one another, it makes everyone drive a little bit bit more durable.”

The Pirates’ prime decide in 2015 (No. 19 general), Newman was motivated by his personal struggles, however the presence of Tucker couldn’t have harm. Newman batted .209 with no dwelling runs and 6 RBIs in 31 video games in 2018 and misplaced the beginning job final spring to Erik Gonzalez.

The low level for Newman coincided with Tucker’s massive second. Newman suffered a laceration on the center finger of his proper hand and was on the injured listing when Gonzalez and Starling Marte had a violent collision in heart discipline that sidelined each gamers. The Pirates known as up Tucker, who hit the dramatic dwelling run and obtained a curtain name at PNC Park.

“I made a decision I may both bounce again and profit from the 12 months or let the early-on levels outline me as a participant and keep that utility or no matter it became,” Newman mentioned. “I needed to do what I may to get again on the sector and be the very best participant that I might be and to actually present who I might be as a serious league participant. Wanting again on the 12 months now, I really feel like that’s what I did, and I’m actually pleased with that.”

So Newman spent the offseason engaged on his footwork, making an attempt to enhance the bounce on his first step so he may achieve — and canopy — extra floor within the gap. It’s exhibiting. When he took his first infield follow, Newman made a spectacular cease behind second base, spun and made a pinpoint throw.

These are the sort of performs Tucker makes seem routine. His protection, nonetheless, couldn’t offset his struggles on the plate. Tucker hit safely in 5 of his first six video games earlier than the underside dropped out. In early June, he was despatched to Triple-A Indianapolis and didn’t return for 5 weeks. In 56 video games, Tucker slashed .211/.266/.361 with two homers and 13 RBIs. Tucker will compete with Gonzalez and JT Riddle for a roster spot.

A dream-come-true begin ended with Tucker wanting extra.

“You do get to the massive leagues. You do have some success. You’re hungry for extra. I would like extra of that,” mentioned Tucker, 23, the Pirates’ prime decide in 2014 (24th general). “With regards to me, everyone seems to be like, ‘Oh, that massive dwelling run you hit or that massive arrival, that massive debut.’ … I would like that to sort of be the norm and occur extra usually. I’m positively hungry for that this 12 months. I do know what that appears like, and I do know what that seems like.”

So does Newman, which is an efficient drawback for the Pirates.

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Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Evaluation workers author. You possibly can contact Kevin by electronic mail at [email protected] or through Twitter .



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