PITTSBURGH -- Cole Tucker was in bed on Friday night when he got the call that he has been waiting for since the second grade. It was Triple-A Indianapolis manager Brian Esposito, and he told Tucker that the Pirates were promoting him to Pittsburgh. Tucker’s reaction, perhaps censored for the
PITTSBURGH -- Cole Tucker was in bed on Friday night when he got the call that he has been waiting for since the second grade. It was Triple-A Indianapolis manager Brian Esposito, and he told Tucker that the Pirates were promoting him to Pittsburgh. Tucker’s reaction, perhaps censored for the media, was simple: “Don’t mess with me.”
Esposito wasn’t kidding. Tucker was heading to the big leagues, and he was going to be the Pirates’ starting shortstop on Saturday afternoon against the Giants at PNC Park. Tucker jumped up and down on his bed, admittedly “freaking out” about the news. He told his mom and dad, his uncle, his grandmother and brothers. Then he rushed to Victory Field to pack up his locker.
There, Tucker ran into outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds, who had also been in bed when Esposito called. He was going to Pittsburgh, too. They arrived together on Saturday morning, posing for a picture along the Allegheny River, riding a cart to the Pirates’ clubhouse and ultimately making their Major League debut in the Pirates’ rain-shortened 3-1 win over the Giants.
Reynolds admitted he was nervous “the whole time” but he still recorded his first hit, a sharp single to left field off lefty Derek Holland in the fourth inning. Tucker came through in the fifth, ripping what turned out to be the game-winning homer to center field.
“This is everything you dream about,” Tucker said before the game. “This has been my lifelong goal and dream, and to be this close and to be here and ultimately help this team win and add value to this club, it’s a blessing. I’m so stoked. I’m so thrilled to be here.”
The circumstances surrounding their promotions were not ideal. The Pirates put center fielder Starling Marte and shortstop Erik González on the injured list following their collision in center on Friday night, creating an immediate need at two positions. Tucker and Reynolds are two of their top 10 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, but each player only has 13 games of experience above the Double-A level.
“We tried to figure out what was best for the club right now, then we’ll see how it plays out daily. That is our intent. That is our mindset,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “The opportunity here, the experience both these men are going to gain, it’s going to do nothing but benefit them in the long run.”
Tucker, 22, was the Pirates’ first-round Draft pick in 2014. He is highly regarded for his speed and defense as well as his leadership and ebullient, fan-friendly personality. Tucker has hit well since the second half of last season, and he followed up a strong Spring Training showing by batting .333 with three homers in 13 games for Triple-A Indianapolis. He should get a chance to prove himself, as Gonzalez will be sidelined for at least two months.
Does Tucker think he’s ready for The Show?
“I feel like I’m ready to add value to this team and to go out and compete and be a good everyday shortstop and just do whatever I’m asked,” he said. “I feel like now that I’m here, I don’t have to come out and try to reinvent myself or do anything out of the ordinary for me. I just need to go out and be Cole Tucker, and I think that’s a good big league player, and I can’t wait to show that.”
The Pirates acquired Reynolds, 24, from the Giants -- his first Major League opponent, coincidentally -- in the trade that sent Andrew McCutchen to San Francisco. The switch-hitting Reynolds, who can handle right or center field, was batting .367 with five homers for Indianapolis before he received the call from Esposito around 12:15 a.m. He called his parents and woke them up, then they -- along with Reynolds’ wife -- made the trip to Pittsburgh to see his debut.
“I’m pretty excited. Pretty surreal,” Reynolds said. “Tried to sleep for a couple hours, didn’t really have success there, got on the plane at 6:30 [a.m.], and here we are.”
Tucker said he didn’t sleep, either. He brushed his teeth for the first time on Saturday when he got to the ballpark. He wasn’t complaining.
“It’s been a crazy day,” Tucker said, “but what else can you ask for?”
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.