Pirates A to Z: Tucupita Marcano showed speed, versatility in three stints in MLB

During the offseason, the Tribune-Review will offer Pirates A to Z: An alphabetical, player-by-player look at the 40-man roster, from outfielder Miguel Andujar to pitcher Miguel Yajure.

Players: Tucupita Marcano

Position(s): Second base/Outfielder

Bats: Left

Throws: Right

Age: 23 (Sept. 16)

Height: 6-foot

Weight: 180 pounds

2022 MLB statistics: Slashed .206/.256/.306 with six doubles, two triples, two home runs and 13 RBIs in 49 games.

Contract: Not yet eligible for arbitration.

Acquired: From the San Diego Padres, along with pitcher Michell Miliano and outfielder Jack Suwinski, in a trade for second baseman Adam Frazier in July 2021.

This past season: Considered the centerpiece return of the Frazier trade, Marcano made his Pirates debut alongside another rookie acquired from the Padres in that deal under unique circumstances.

With outfielder Bryan Reynolds and shortstop Cole Tucker on the covid-19 injured list while awaiting their test results, the Pirates didn’t have time to fly in a prospect from Triple-A Indianapolis. Instead, they turned to Double-A Altoona, which was visiting Akron.

So Marcano and Suwinski made the two-hour drive to PNC Park, arriving in time for the April 27 game against the Milwaukee Brewers. Marcano got a pinch-hit double, scored a run in the eighth inning and threw out Rowdy Tellez at the plate in the ninth in the 12-8 loss.

“It’s been very exciting,” Marcano said of his whirlwind day. “It’s been a year (since the trade), and throughout this year really fighting hard, sacrificing a lot, battling hard to get another opportunity was huge for me, and for this organization to trust me and provide that opportunity was huge for me. Now the mission is for me to continue working hard, continue training hard, continue with my preparation, my regimen so I can remain here.”

Where Suwinski showed staying power, Marcano made only a cameo. He was sent back to Indianapolis after one game and did not return until late May. On a six-game road trip to San Diego and Los Angeles, Marcano batted .316 (6 for 19) with a .982 OPS and two homers.

It was on the West Coast road trip that Marcano showed he could handle critical situations. He drew a ninth-inning walk to get on base for Ke’Bryan Hayes’ three-run homer in the 4-2 win over the Padres on May 28. Marcano then homered in the second inning in back-to-back games against the Dodgers, with a three-run shot in the 6-5 win on May 30 and a two-run blast in the 5-3 win on May 31. He also had a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning to put Tyler Heineman in position to score on a Reynolds double.

“I’m constantly reviewing tapes and film, checking out the pitchers, studying and evaluating the pitchers,” Marcano said through team translator Mike Gonzalez. “I feel like that’s what’s giving me a lot of success right now, just doing my homework and remaining focused and coming to the plate ready and prepared.”

Over the next four games, Marcano batted .091 (1 for 14). It was the start of a streaky season at the plate. A bout with covid-19 interrupted a 19-game stretch where Marcano slashed .262/.318/.410 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs. After three games upon his return, Marcano was optioned to Indianapolis.

When the Pirates brought him back again in August for his third call-up of the season, Marcano embraced the chance to show that he belonged in the majors.

“Every call-up is filled with opportunities,” Marcano said. “I’ve always seen it as an opportunity for me to demonstrate what I can do, not only for myself, but especially for the team to help the team get wins. That’s my mindset coming up here, just doing everything I can to be able to help the team win.”

Marcano set out to show consistency, focusing on his effort level. He slashed .362/.433/.500 with five doubles, one homer and five RBIs in 14 games at Indianapolis, giving the Pirates motivation to promote him in early August when they decided to designate first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo for assignment.

“I’ve just gotta keep showing up, show my consistency, show everyone that I’m here to help the team win,” Marcano said. “There’s going to be things outside of my control. The business part that I can’t control. But what I can control is my mindset, my effort, and I’m coming up here to help the team win.”

Marcano went 3 for 4 with an RBI and a run scored and made a pair of spectacular defensive plays in an 8-7 win over the Brewers on a Reynolds walk-off homer. Pirates manager Derek Shelton couldn’t resist the chance to give Reynolds a hard time.

“I told Reynolds after the game I thought Tucupita was the player of the game. I don’t know why they were interviewing him,” Shelton said. “We continue to talk about his kid being a baseball player, and he really demonstrated it. He did a lot of really good things.”

Marcano provided a spark after the Pirates fell behind, 4-0. He singled to start the third inning, then reached third after the Brewers walked Reynolds and Ben Gamel with two outs. Marcano scored on a two-run single to right by Hayes to cut it to 4-2, had a two-out triple but was stranded in the third and hit an RBI single in the sixth to score Michael Chavis to tie the game.

“He’s a good player,” Reynolds said. “He goes out there, hits the ball hard and plays hard. It was fun to watch.”

Marcano made a diving catch in left field to rob Kolten Wong of an extra-base hit that Shelton called “an unbelievable play.” When Kevin Newman had his right hand stepped on by Tellez in a rundown, Marcano moved from left to second base in the ninth inning.

Marcano was shifted behind second base and fielded a Hunter Renfroe grounder up the middle that Shelton said made Marcano look like he came out of nowhere.

“That’s the mindset,” Marcano said. “I’m here to help the team win every way possible. I’m always trying to do things right, do things correctly. That’s the way I was taught, to do things right (and) results will come. To be able to come over here, help the team win and show the team I’m here for them, that means the world to me.”

The play of rookies Marcano and Suwinski made the early returns on the Frazier trade appear more positive. The Pirates exchanged an All-Star second baseman for a pair of players with years of club control.

“We traded a good player to get two players we expect to be part of our future,” Shelton said. “Anytime you do that, it’s a bonus. It’s tough trading players, especially everyday players, but when you start to see the results of the guys on the back side it’s a really good thing.”

The future: Marcano started 22 games over the final month of the season – five at second base and 16 in left field – but his .154 batting average (12 for 78) and 23 strikeouts against four walks were concerns.

What Marcano has going for him are his youth – he just turned 23 in mid-September – speed and versatility. The Pirates have expressed confidence in him in left field, as well as playing second in a pinch.

Now that the Pirates traded middle infielders Kevin Newman and Hoy Park, Marcano should be a candidate to compete for the starting job at second base with Rodolfo Castro, Diego Castillo and Ji Hwan Bae.

Problem is, the Pirates appear to like him more in the grass, as he’s one of eight outfielders on the 40-man roster. Marcano has shown he can chase down line drives in left but the Pirates might want to give him a look in center to take advantage of his speed.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

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