Prospect Scouting Report: Rusty Tucker

The best reliever in the San Diego Padres' system underwent a strenuous rehab process this past season, recovering from Tommy John surgery. Rusty Tucker has regained a lot of his velocity this offseason as he works back to the point where he can throw in the upper nineties again.

Viewed as a future closer, Rusty Tucker suffered a setback in August of 2003. On a Saturday night, he felt the pop that would send him on the road to rehab.

Tommy John Surgery isn't the taboo it once was.  Many pitchers have successfully
returned from the surgery, including Adam Eaton.

His fastball, once able to hit 98 on the radar gun, isn't quite at that level yet but the Padres expect it to return to form sometime during the 2005 season.

"He will get it back to where it was sometime this year," Tye Waller, the Padres Director of Player Development, said.

The southpaw from Massachusetts came into the Padres organization throwing in the low 90's before the team changed his motion and slowed down his delivery. The result was increased velocity.

Now he must relearn those traits and strengthen his arm once again.

"We just weren't rushing to get him in games," Waller explained.  "We pulled him out of the Arizona League because we didn't want him trying to do too much early in his comeback."

Tucker had stints at a few different levels in the system through the course of the year, including throwing on the side in Mobile.  He also went out to the Instructional League and the signs of encouragement continued.

It was another chance for him to get some work in a game environment to continue to work on his arm.

He ended up pitching in eight games with Lake Elsinore, giving up eight runs, six earned, in seven innings of work.  He struck out six and walked five. While hitters hit .300 off him, he limited the damage by allowing a .182 batting average with runners in scoring position.

Tucker also saw action in ten games with Peoria of the Arizona League.  The team wanted to keep their prized lefty close to monitor him and in 10.2 innings of work he allowed six runs, five earned on nine hits.  He walked five and struck out four, earning one save.

The biggest adjustment for Tucker will be how he handles his new arm.  Testing it out, some players won't trust in it at first.  Once faith is restored, Tucker should come back to the form that saw him strike out 189 in 153.2 innings of work.  This is the same player who had a 2.59 ERA between 2002 and 2003 between three different leagues.

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