Buck Getting Back On Track

The 2008 season hasn't gone according to script for outfielder Travis Buck. After a strong rookie campaign for the Oakland A's, Buck was expected to be an important part of the A's every day line-up in 2008. Early season struggles and injuries landed Buck in Triple-A, working to get back to the major leagues. Buck is feeling good at the plate and confident in his game once again.

In 2007, Travis Buck was the young prospect playing beyond anyone's expectations in spring training to earn a spot on the major league roster. Once the season began, Buck quickly earned a permanent spot in the Oakland A's everyday line-up. He hit .288 with an 851 OPS during his rookie season. The only downside to his first year in the big leagues was the time he spent injured, which limited Buck to only 82 games.

The expectations for Buck were different going into the 2008 season. No longer was he the young up-and-comer. In fact, thanks to the trades of Nick Swisher and Mark Kotsay, Buck was the only returning regular outfielder on the A's roster at the start of spring training. Without the outgoing Swisher on the team, the A's marketing department turned to the loquacious Buck as one of the featured players in the team's commercials and print ads.

Buck's 2008 season got off to a rough start when he went 0-10 with three strike-outs during the A's two-game set in Japan versus the Boston Red Sox. That slump continued into the A's first homestand in Oakland, as Buck went 0-11 in front of the home crowd before finally collecting his first hits of the season during the A's first road game in Toronto. He got his average up to .245 on April 13th, but he quickly fell into another slump, going 2-21 before being placed on the DL with shin splints.

Once he was healthy, Buck was sent to Triple-A Sacramento for a rehab assignment. It was expected that Buck would be brought back to Oakland once he was healthy, but the A's didn't see the improvement that they wanted to with his swing and optioned him to Triple-A on May 10. He stayed in the minor leagues until May 29th, when he was promoted back to Oakland after hitting .337 for the River Cats.

Buck's second stay in Oakland wasn't a long one, however. He had only seven hits in 41 at-bats, but he was swinging the bat better than he did in April, collecting three homeruns and walking seven times against eight strikeouts. Despite those improvements, Buck was sent back to Sacramento in mid-June. After only two games with the River Cats, Buck was sidelined with a concussion that he incurred hitting the wall while making a catch. He returned to active play on June 30th, but was sidelined again two weeks later with a bruised thumb.

Buck returned to the River Cats' line-up on Saturday and since that time, he has gone 3-9 with five RBIs and three walks. He is now batting .295 with an 802 OPS in 38 games for the River Cats. We caught-up with Buck on Sunday and asked him about his health, his early season struggles, making it back to the big leagues and more…

OaklandClubhouse: How are you feeling? Are you completely recovered from the concussion and the thumb injury?

Travis Buck: I feel great. Both of the injuries this year were really outfield-related and involved diving plays. That's just the way I play. I'm always going to go hard for the ball. Sometimes things like that happen. Other than that, though, I feel great.

OC: Was that your first concussion?

TB: First one ever, yeah. Fortunately, it was just a mild one. The best thing about it was that I caught the ball. [laughs] I would have been a little bit more upset if I hadn't caught it.

OC: The catch preserved a no-hitter, right?

TB: Absolutely.

OC: How would you rate your swing at this point?

TB: [My swing] is totally fine. The biggest thing for me is confidence. Ever since I got sent down the first time, the confidence has definitely come back. The swing is totally fine. Even when I went back up [to the majors] the second time, I didn't get many hits, but the swing was there and I got some walks, hit some homers and I was hitting a lot of balls right at guys. So I am happy where I am at with my swing.

OC: To what would you attribute your early-season struggles?

TB: I think it was just me putting a whole bunch of pressure on myself that didn't need to be there. Obviously with me being sort of portrayed as the face of the franchise going into spring training, in the beginning of the year, it was a lot to put on a guy who had only 82 games of big league experience. It would have been totally fine, but I just felt like I had to do a little bit extra. All of the pressure that was put on me was put there by myself. I definitely learned from it and it is only going to help me in the future.

OC: Do you have a sense of what you need to do to get back to the big leagues, or are you not worrying about it?

TB: I just want to go out there and play everyday and enjoy the game. I know that if I am healthy, I am going to put up great numbers. Whenever the time comes, the time comes. I'm not going to put added pressure on myself again trying to get back up there. I know I can have success at that level. I proved it last year.

OC: Was there something that happened at the start of the season that caused the poor start?

TB: The biggest thing for me this year was coming out of the gate in a slump. Everyone goes through a slump, but mine just happened to take place at the beginning of the year where a lot more attention was put into it. So now I am just going out there and enjoying every day.

OC: I know it has been a while now, but what was the Japan trip like?

TB: It was great. It was a lot of fun. We got treated really well. The Japanese fans definitely know the game of baseball. It was fun playing in front of an unbelievable crowd that was into every pitch, which is what it seemed like. Obviously playing against the Red Sox and having [Hideki] Okajima and [Daisuke] Matsuzaka pitch against us, it was an experience I'll never forget.

OC: Was it hard to get your bio-rhythms back to normal after the trip?

TB: It was. I couldn't sleep through the night until about two weeks back in the States, when I was finally able to sleep through the night. That pretty much happened with everybody. It was just something that you have to overcome. But it all comes with the territory with going over there for a week.

OC: Did you go anywhere during the Triple-A All-Star break?

TB: I actually just went back down to Oakland. I still share an apartment with [Kurt] Suzuki down there, so whenever my time comes, I'll be back there hanging out with him. [laughs]

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