JUPITER, Fla. -- Making his first start of the spring, Astros outfield prospect Kyle Tucker clubbed a three-run home run off Cardinals starter Miles Mikolas in the first inning of Sunday's 7-3 win in a Grapefruit League game at Roger Dean Stadium.
"I thought I had some good takes over there," Tucker said. "That's what I've been trying to work on and figure out what they're trying to throw. They threw me two back-foot sliders or curveballs right there, so I figured he was going to come with the fastball, 3-1. I got it over the plate and did the most with it."
Tucker, who went 1-for-4 and lined out to first base in his final at-bat, is the Astros' No. 2-ranked prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Tucker's parents were in attendance Sunday. They watched his older brother, former Astros outfielder Preston Tucker, play against the Astros for the Braves on Saturday, and the family had dinner Saturday night.
"I was joking with him and asked him if he was nervous going into the game, his first start," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "His parents are in town. I don't think he was too nervous. I don't think he gets too rattled or too excitable, but he hit the ball hard pretty much every time up today. We've been told he's got a really good swing. He knows the zone. An impressive young kid."
Tucker, making his first appearance in big league camp, isn't going to make the stacked Astros' lineup out of Spring Training, but he understands the importance of making a good impression in front of the big league staff.
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"This team makes it pretty comfortable to settle in quick," he said. "I feel everyone here is family. Everyone is comfortable around everyone."
Despite being one of the youngest position players in both the Carolina League and Texas League at 20 years old, Tucker was one of just 10 players in all of the Minor Leagues to record at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 2017. Last year, he hit .274 with 70 runs, 33 doubles, five triples, 25 homers, 90 RBIs, 21 steals and an .874 OPS in 120 combined games between Class A Advanced Buies Creek and Double-A Corpus Christi.
Cole on an early roll
Sunday marked a nearly flawless Grapefruit League debut in an Astros uniform for Gerrit Cole, as he retired six of the seven batters he faced -- he hit one batter -- in two sharp innings. He threw 19 of his 30 pitches for strikes, and threw just fastballs and changeups.
"You just got a feel for the zone and the atmosphere with a little more adrenaline, a little more stakes on the line," Cole said. "I hit the pitch count we wanted to and worked efficient and hit a handful of spots."
Hinch came away impressed with Cole, who came over in a trade with the Pirates last month.
"He went in wanting to use his fastball and his changeup, and I thought his changeup was good," he said. "The first outings for guys like that, you just want them to feel comfortable. You want them to get through their outing and feel good coming out of it with something positive. He did that. It was nice to see him on the mound."
"We're just up and running so fast. The schedule with the new rules and timeline, the season's starting a little earlier. We're not to use our guys in too many back-to-back days. We have a relatively small camp on purpose. We want to keep it pretty small, so we're going to ask guys to come from the mini camp on the Minor League side."
-- Hinch, on using a flurry of Minor League players early in Grapefruit League action
Justin Verlander will make his Grapefruit League debut for the split-squad Astros at 12:05 p.m. CT Monday against the Mets in West Palm Beach, Fla. -- which will be broadcast live on MLB.TV and MLB Network. The other Astros squad will be in nearby Jupiter to face the Marlins. Francis Martes will make his first start for Houston in the 12:05 p.m. CT game.