Tucker Adjusting to Position Move

The last time Preston Tucker played consistently in the outfield, he did it for AAU teams during travel ball when he was in middle school. There are only so many positions a left-handed fielder can play, and he never lined up at first base at that point. It has been so long since he lined up in the outfield that the transition to the back this offseason was like starting from scratch.

"That was seven years ago," Tucker said with a smirk about the last time he played outfield.

When Tucker got to Plant High School as a freshman, he was set on playing outfield. After not getting much playing time as a freshman, the team needed a first baseman during his sophomore year. If he had to change positions to get on the field, that's what he was willing to do.

So Tucker traded in his normal glove for a first baseman's mitt, and he put up scary offensive numbers for the next three year's at Plant. He did the same thing during his first two seasons at Florida, earning SEC Freshman of the Year in 2009.

The focus this season will be on how he handles the outfield. He started a handful of games there in 2009, most notably in the SEC Tournament. Florida already had a national seed locked up, so the coaches had a chance to toy with the lineup and see what worked best. Tucker dropped two fly balls that were directly in the sun.

Those plays hurt fan's confidence in him playing the outfield, but he has improved a lot this offseason.

"I started day one of the fall," Tucker said. "I haven't played one inning at first base since the fall started. I think I'm doing as well as I can. I've put in the work and taken a ton of reps. I feel just as good as I would if I were playing first base."

Tucker will play right field this spring, so he will see the ball off the bat similar to how he did at first base. The ball will still have the same spin off the bat as when he played the infield. The biggest adjustment came in reading fly balls off the bat that had a higher trajectory when hit to him in the outfield.

"It's the fly balls," Tucker said of the biggest adjustment to the outfield. "You don't get too many of those at first base. Taking fly balls in the corners is tough because there is going to be a lot of spin on them. I'm starting to get used to it."

The Florida coaches aren't concerned. They've seen enough improvement from Tucker in practice to believe he can handle the job.

"So far, so good," Florida head coach Kevin O'Sullivan said. "We've had a whole fall to work on it. He did a nice job in the fall, but you really never know until the games start. He's looked sharp out there."

A smaller adjustment to be made in the outfield is throwing the ball. In the infield, the longest throw Tucker had to make was to second base to start a double play. In the outfield, he now has to worry about throwing runners out at home and third base.

It comes with a different way of throwing the ball. Now in the outfield, he has worked on creating more backspin on the ball as it comes out of his hand.

"That's one thing I worked on a lot," Tucker said. "I'm getting more carry on the ball and not throwing like an infielder. I have to throw long distances, and my arm strength has gotten a lot better."

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