Talking Stros with Houston Astros slugger Preston Tucker
As some of you are aware, in addition to my editors role at CTH, I have joined KTXF-DB internet radio, part of the Texas Sports Review (TSR) network. This radio show is an excellent opportunity to be able to interview players on the radio and talk baseball with one of my writers Brandon DelCastillo. We broadcast live 8-10pm CST every Monday. Last Monday, we were joined by Preston Tucker and Billy Wagner. For the Wagner interview post at CTH, you can find it here: Billy Wagner on his chances of getting into the Hall of Fame (interview).
The first player we interviewed that day was Tucker, who quickly became a fan favorite last season in his rookie year. Towards the end of the season, Tucker’s role on the team diminished with the trade for Carlos Gomez and the return of George Springer from the DL. We will discuss this with Tucker on how he adjusted to becoming a bench player, and a talk about his brother as well.
Tucker’s 2015 Stats with Astros: .243/ 13 homers/ 33 RBI/ 19 doubles.
Let’s see what Preston Tucker had to say, you can listen to the podcast version of the show or continue reading.
The Preston Tucker Interview
CTH/TSR: What was your first thought when you heard that Colby Rasmus accepted the qualifying offer?
Tucker: I was excited, obviously, that did shake things up for me, but Colby is a great guy. Colby is a good friend of mine and was a mentor to me throughout the season. It was weird, though, it kind of left my future a little uncertain. I don’t know if I’m going to be with the Astros in Spring Training, don’t know what type of role I will have.
It leaves a whole lot of unanswered questions, but that’s part of baseball. It’s kind of exciting though to go to spring training and see how all the work I did in the offseason pays off.
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CTH/TSR: We all know that Jose Altuve can’t be a bench player with his cup stacking ability, how do you keep fresh to be ready to get that big pinch hit at the end of the game?
Tucker: That’s tough, that’s something that I haven’t really done before last season. In the minors or college, I had never come off the bench. It was new to me, the first couple times I went up there, I felt really unprepared, but I ended up hitting those two home runs in Detroit in those circumstances. As the season progressed and the Astros traded for Carlos Gomez, I needed to get used to that role.
I talked to some guys who had the experiences to try to figure out how to stay loose and warmed up throughout the game. I tried to figure out what situation I would have to go into the game depending on if a pitcher was warming up in the bullpen. I look at the matchups and inning, which gives me the idea of when to start warming up.
CTH/TSR: You hit 13 home runs last year, does one of them stand out, besides the two in Detroit?
Tucker: Obviously the first one I hit in Detroit was a big one for me being my first big league homer. But my favorite one was at home versus Detroit was big because we were down in the bottom of the ninth, we were being shutout 1-0, and then I hit the home run in the ninth to tie it up. Unfortunately, we ended up losing the game, but it was cool to hit one at home. I didn’t hit too many homers at home, so that was exciting.
CTH/TSR: That would have been my pick too, I wanted to say congratulations on a great rookie season, is there anything you are working on specifically that you have decided you should focus on to get better for 2016?
Tucker: There is always room for improvement, I got sort of a late jump to playing the outfield, I started towards the end of my college career, so that’s something that I am trying to progress on. It’s something that I had to learn pretty quick, and I am still trying to learn. Also, I am working on my agility and staying flexible. I think I did have some problems at the plate with the approach, but that’s something I can’t start working on until I start seeing some live pitching. My swing feels good right now and trying to get my body prepared to play a little better defensively.
CTH/TSR: Has there been any thoughts to you playing first base at some point?
Tucker: For me personally, yeah, but I think that if they actually wanted me to start the season as a first baseman, that they would already have told me by now. At the end of the year, they would have told me to start taking groundballs at first, but no, I haven’t heard anything. Since I know it’s not an option, I am working on playing in the outfield right now.
CTH/TSR: Is first base something you would be interested in trying out?
Tucker: Absolutely, I played there my first two and a half years of college. I was pretty good defensively, but I would have to work on it with not playing there for a while, four years or something. Yeah, I could get comfortable with first base pretty quickly. They have a lot of guys who are pretty good there already.
CTH/TSR: Who won the last wrestling match between you and your brother Kyle Tucker?
Tucker: No, he doesn’t even try me anymore. He got taller than me and tried to start something, but I’m always going to be the stronger one, I have that thought in his head, he won’t mess with me anymore.
CTH/TSR: Your brother did take down your high school home run record, how do you feel about that?
Tucker: Well, I didn’t even play my freshman year, I had 15 at-bats my freshman year, he had four full years in there, so I sure hope he did. By the time he got there, they had changed the approved bats, the one I was using was juiced, so what he did was nothing short of impressive. It was fun to watch; I only had the chance to watch a couple of games before I had to take off for spring training.
CTH/TSR: Let’s say that you and Kyle had a home run derby, who would win?
Tucker: I would win 100%, I have a more powerful swing, he is more toolsy than me, but he would probably tell you that he would win in a home run derby.
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CTH/TSR: Who is the clubhouse joker, who is the best dancer, and who is the most serious player in the clubhouse?
Tucker: Best joker, unfortunately no longer with us, Hank Conger. He was one of my good buddies on the team and messed around more than anyone else. Best dance, probably George Springer, not sure if he is the best dancer, but he is constantly dancing, he is always fun to be around. Most serious, I would have to say whoever the newest guy on the team, I was probably that guy at one point. There was a good vibe in that locker room, once everyone starts getting comfortable, it’s nothing but fun in there. Takes the young guys a little while to get warmed up to, but they always have a good time.
CTH/TSR: What led to your struggles in August, September, and October?
Tucker: It was a combination of things, one of the things is that I wasn’t playing as much, which was something I hadn’t done before, and I had to learn that when I did get a start to take advantage of it, which led me to press a little bit. This could have led me to be a little over aggressive, swinging at balls out of the strike zone, instead of taking a walk, I was trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark.
I was trying to earn my spot in the lineup the next day, but baseball doesn’t work like that, it was something I had to work on mentally. It was a combination of being tired, I had a longer season than normal, and trying too hard to do too much which really hurt me.
CTH/TSR: What is one thing that has to happen this season for the Astros to win the World Series?
Tucker: One of the things I would have said was what we already got, a guy who can throw 100 mph (Ken Giles). I think our bullpen was lights out at times, but we didn’t have a guy who could rack up strikeouts. I know our offense doesn’t hit for the highest average, but we produce runs. When we get on-base, we have guys who can steal and then we have guys who could hit three-run home runs. I think our offense is great, but we really needed a guy in the bullpen who could get a strikeout when needed.
CTH/TSR: Quick little trivia, this is comparing your first year in the minor leagues to your brothers first year. Who had the most plate appearances?
Tucker: Kyle had more plate appearances.
CTH/TSR: Who had the most home runs?
Tucker: That was me.
CTH/TSR: Sorry, this is an obvious question, but who had the most steals?
Tucker: Kyle, I didn’t have any. (actually, you had one Preston).
CTH/TSR: Who had the higher batting average?
Tucker: I had the higher average.
CTH/TSR: Who scored the most runs?
Tucker: I am going to say that I did.
CTH/TSR: Who drank the most beers?
Tucker: I am going to say because I was 21 and Kyle was 18, that I drank the most beers.
CTH/TSR: Thank you, Preston, you got all the answers right. Thank you again for coming. Appreciate your time, Merry Christmas, and really looking forward to seeing you play in 2016. Is there anything you would like to say to the Astros fans listening?
Tucker: Yes, Astros fans, you guys were unbelievable this year. I couldn’t have done it without you, thanks again, can’t wait to see you in 2016.
Thanks to Preston Tucker for joining me on @TalkingStros, if you would like to follow him, you can do so at @PrestonTucker20. This next Monday, we will be joined by Joseph Musgrove and Jon Kemmer, both have promising futures with the Astros. Check us out every Monday 8-10pm CST on @KTXFdbTheReel, we talk Astros baseball when no one else does.
**Stats from Baseball-Reference**