Giger: Curve’s Tucker learns from recent slump


Cole Tucker knew it was up there, that ugly thing on the scoreboard when he went to the plate for his first at-bat Sunday afternoon.

“Yeah, I knew,” the Curve shortstop said with a sly laugh. “It sucks when you’re not hitting your weight. But I did know.”?Tucker weighs 200 pounds. His batting average that glared on the scoreboard to start Sunday’s game was .195, a dismal number no one would have expected from one of the Pirates’ top prospects a month and a half into the season.

A recent 3-for-42 slump was the primary culprit for Tucker’s average dipping below the Mendoza line. He got off to a hot start and was hitting .321 prior to the slump, but then the bottom fell out.

Tucker, though, went 3-for-4 during the Curve’s 12-3 win over Portland on Sunday, so that game could turn out to be jumpstart he needed.

“It gives you some confidence going into the off day (Monday), going into the road trip, which is sweet,” Tucker said. “I definitely needed that. And especially because I feel like I’ve had a ton of bad luck. When I square balls up, they’re at people. Not getting any tappers or bleeders or whatever. To have some of those hits fall is really encouraging.”

Manager Michael Ryan attributed Tucker’s struggles to pitch recognition and pitch selection. The key, Ryan added, is “getting his pitch that he can do some damage on.”

The weird thing about Tucker’s 3-for-42 skid is that he was putting together a number of good at-bats. He had a pair of two-walk games during the slump and five walks total, plus he was working deep counts in other at-bats that resulted in outs.

“Yeah, 100 percent, as far as having quality at-bats,” Tucker said. “As the leadoff guy, that’s my job is to go out there and set the tone. I felt like I was having those good at-bats, having those hard contacts and sticking with my approach.”

Still, there weren’t many hits falling for him, and when you’re a player who has succeeded as much as Tucker has in his life, going through that kind of horrible slump grows more and more frustrating each day.

But the bottom line for Tucker, and any minor leaguer, really, is understanding that going through a major slump is inevitable in the world’s most humbling game.

“I was talking to (Larry Sutton), our hitting coordinator who’s been in town, and for him, he likes it when we slump because then there’s growth that comes after that,” Tucker said. “And to get to the big leagues, the end destination, you’ve got to go through those hard times and face that adversity.”

The best thing a minor leaguer can do is succeed.

The second best thing a minor leaguer can do is fail, learn from it, then find a way to succeed.

That’s what the minors are for.

“I totally get it,” Tucker said of learning from the tough times. “But just because you understand it doesn’t mean you want to accept it. … As players, we’re human, and we don’t want to look up and see .195 on the scoreboard. But we recognize that it happens, and it’s part of the game to get through it.”

Cory Giger is the host of “Sports Central” weekdays from 4 to 6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM.