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Tucker eager to play part in Astros' turnaround

Tucker eager to play part in Astros' turnaround

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Non-roster invitee Preston Tucker's first full season as a prospect in the Astros organization proved one thing.

"He can hit," Houston manager Bo Porter said.

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Between stints with Class A Advanced Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi last season, Tucker batted .297 (159-for-535) with 25 home runs, 103 RBIs, 32 doubles and a .368 on-base percentage.

Those plate numbers helped earn the seventh-round selection in the 2012 MLB First-Year Player Draft a spot in his first big league camp in 2014.

"You look at the numbers and he was one of those guys I kind of put an asterisk next to," Porter said. " I was excited to have him here at camp."

Added Tucker of his first experience in an MLB clubhouse: "So far, it's been really fun. It's really cool. I really like it."

But the hitting numbers have always been there for Tucker. In four seasons at the University of Florida, Tucker set school records with 341 hits, 258 RBIs and 70 doubles. His 54 career homers rank second in school history.

"It's power to all fields," Porter said. "He stays on the ball well. I mean, the pull power obviously speaks for itself. But he's not just a power hitter. The guy can really hit. He's selective, he understands the strike zone and he uses the whole field."

While his bat was a sure thing during his collegiate career, Tucker's position in the field was not. He split time between the outfield, first base and designated hitter. Houston has switched Tucker exclusively to right field, and that is where his focus lies.

"A lot of outfield work," Tucker said. "There's always room to improve there -- footwork, drop steps, throwing."

During his time with the Gators, Tucker was a part of three different College World Series runs. Meanwhile, the Astros have not finished with a winning record since 2008, Tucker's senior year at Tampa Plant High School (Fla.).

But Tucker recognizes the renewed optimism in Houston's organization -- Porter said the Astros aim to become the Majors' "most improved" team in 2014 -- and Tucker is excited by what he has seen during Spring Training.

"The guys are really buying into it," Tucker said. "That's one of the biggest things. It's a group of young guys who really want to make a name for themselves and really want to start winning ballgames."

Joe Morgan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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