With the status of Grady Sizemore uncertain for Opening Day, and Austin Kearns' off-the-field issues still pending, the Cleveland Indians have turned to a relatively unfamiliar face this Spring Training for stability in the outfield: Travis Buck.
Buck has logged 39 at-bats this Spring Training, tied for first on the team, while appearing in 13 games.
He has made good use of his time with the club this spring, hitting .385 with three doubles, one home run, and five RBI. Including players with at least 25 at-bats, only Asdrubal Cabrera and Lonnie Chisenhall have a higher slugging percentage than him.
Buck was signed, with little hype, by the Indians on December 20, 2010 to a minor league deal.
The 27-year old Buck spent the first four seasons of his career with the Oakland Athletics. His finest season was in fact his rookie season, when, in roughly half the season with the big league club, he hit .288 with 34 extra-base hits, including 22 doubles and seven home runs.
Looking ahead to the 2011 season, Shin-Soo Choo is the most recently proven outfielder on the roster. Buck could provide solid left-handed hitting depth in case Sizemore is injured again (or his progress rehabbing his knee does not move as quickly as we all hope), or Michael Brantley struggles. Buck and Austin Kearns could certainly provide an adequate safety valve in either case.
As far as sure-handed gloves are concerned, Buck is also more than reliable. He has logged time in all three outfield positions in his pro career. Even further, in over 1,360 innings of play he has not committed an error, a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage.
While Spring Training is far from an indicator to how a player may perform in the regular season, Travis Buck may have punched his ticket to Cleveland for the 2011 season.