Cole Tucker stepped to the plate in place of the injured Jake Marisnick in the sixth inning of Monday’s game and did something he hasn’t done in quite some time. With left-handed pitcher Julio Urias on the mound, the to this point switch-hitting Tucker stepped into the left-handed batter’s box.
“I’m tired of getting that bat shoved up my butt right-handed, bluntly,” Tucker cited as the rationale. “I just want to give myself the best chance I can to succeed, and right now, I feel like that’s left-handed. I feel good and I feel stable behind the ball left-handed,” he added.
The at-bat resulted in a strikeout, but Tucker worked the count full and saw eight pitches in the battle. Though he didn’t get the result he wanted, he didn’t look completely overmatched against the tough Dodgers southpaw. “It was unique but I just jumped in an ripped it and went in confidently and felt better than I expected when I got up there.”
It’s the first time at the Major League level that Tucker has abandoned switch-hitting, but not the first time since he’s been a player in the Pirates organization. “The last time I seriously tried to quit hitting right-handed was probably when I was in Double-A so it’s been a few years, but the game was kind of showing me that might be the right decision.”
Batting from both sides of the plate has been something in Tucker’s game since he was a teenager playing high school ball. The reason why he made the decision then was simple, he wanted to emulate the big league hitters he liked watching such as Chipper Jones and Jose Reyes.
Even though Tucker has primarily been a switch-hitter, the Major League level isn’t the same as high school ball, and Tucker admitted switch-hitting with the way the game is played today is tougher. “Unless you’re a freak and you’re Carlos Beltran and you just roll out of bed and rake from both sides, it is harder to do in today’s game.”
The 25-year old deemed it was time for a change as he’s continued to scuffle at the plate this season. Through 17 games to begin the year, Tucker is hitting just .169 with a .390 OPS and 24 strikeouts against zero walks. Hitting right-handed, Tucker has just one hit in 13 at-bats and has been sat down seven times via strikeouts.
Tucker got the start at second base in Tuesday’s loss to the Dodgers, and had a base hit in four at-bats, though didn’t find himself in any left-on-left matchups.
As for how long we can expect Tucker to solely be a lefty swinger, well, it depends. “It doesn’t have to be a forever thing, but I definitely want to give it a go and see,” he said.