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Tucker relishes playing near Tampa home

Astros No. 2 prospect gets start vs. Yankees in front of family, friends
Special to MLB.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- Nothing seems to rattle Astros rising star Kyle Tucker -- not even his homecoming party Friday night against the Yankees.

"I'm excited to play, my family coming, some friends coming," Tucker said before starting in right field for Friday's 2-0 Astros victory. "It'll be fun to play in front of them."

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Nothing seems to rattle Astros rising star Kyle Tucker -- not even his homecoming party Friday night against the Yankees.

"I'm excited to play, my family coming, some friends coming," Tucker said before starting in right field for Friday's 2-0 Astros victory. "It'll be fun to play in front of them."

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Spring Training information

Tucker said this without breaking a smile or raising an eyebrow -- emblematic of his play this spring, when he's calmly hit four home runs and coolly totaled 15 RBIs, with both numbers leading the defending World Series champions.

His latest impressive number is 11 -- the amount of tickets he had to gather for a fan club of family and friends who mostly reside only five minutes away from the Yankees' Steinbrenner Field.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"I don't think I came to a ton of Spring Training games [growing up]; I just watched them from home," said the product of Tampa's Plant High School. "I would see the traffic when they would have the Spring Training games."

Traffic also likely doesn't rattle Tucker, 21, who has made an incredible first impression in his first big league Spring Training. He's batting .405 after notching a single and a stolen base in Friday's game.

"It's hard not to be impressed by him, given the type of spring that he's had," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Just him getting comfortable around the older players, around players he's seen on TV, the mystique of the big leagues in Spring Training is something we want every young player to experience."

Video: HOU@NYM: Tucker clobbers solo moonshot to right

"It's going well; I've learned a lot," said Tucker, the Astros' first-round pick (fifth overall) in the 2015 Draft. "I kind of knew what I needed to work on coming into the spring."

That's the key to Tucker's success -- not resting on the laurels of being the team's reigning Minor League Player of the Year. He admittedly worked hard in the offseason to fine-tune his approach at the plate and did it by getting his work done early on a daily basis this spring.

"I made it a point early in the mornings before our practices start in the cages -- been working on it and it's gone pretty well," Tucker said. "Focusing on the strike zone, focusing not just on pitches in the zone but pitches over the plate that you can really drive."

The work has paid off for Tucker, who has more than lived up to all the hype of being the Astros' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but even with all of his success, he must wait his turn on an Astros roster that features a logjam of young stars who have had to do the same.

"I feel like these questions are the same ones I've been asked about [George] Springer, same ones I've been asked about with [Carlos] Correa, same with [Alex] Bregman," Hinch said. "We've kind of had the luxury of adding a guy like this [regularly] over the course of my tenure. So he has some people that will relate to him, some players who will help pave the way for him.

"He'll enter a clubhouse that's familiar with him, but more importantly the challenges he faces."

Video: HOU@NYM: Tucker swipes second base in the 9th inning

The waiting will be tough and Tucker knows the path to the Majors would be faster on lesser teams, but he's not worried about it.

"Yeah, it's tough, we have a great ballclub up there -- guessing it's a good thing we have that problem," he said. "I just have to keep doing what I'm doing and hopefully I'll make it a tough decision for them."

Hinch sees a future star in Tucker, who he admits has the body type of other tall and lanky corner outfielders of Hinch's generation like Shawn Green and Ben Grieve, but that's where the comparisons end.

"I don't like to compare anybody to anybody; the best version of himself is what we need," Hinch said.

For now, the Astros like Tucker for being Tucker.

"He's a pretty evenkeeled guy; he's comfortable in his own skin," Hinch said. "I haven't seen any panic in his approach. He's been quiet, which is the right thing to do as a young player. He's been comfortable since Day One."

Even on his homecoming night.

Mike Nabors is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Astros on Friday.

Houston Astros, Kyle Tucker