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Saturday, April 6, 2013
Buck an unlikely hero in first week as Met

By Kieran Darcy

John Buck for MVP? Five games into the season, you can make the case.

The 32-year-old catcher came up big once again in the Mets' 7-3 victory Saturday, going 1-for-2 with a double, a pair of sacrifice flies and four runs batted in.

Buck is now hitting .421 on the year, with two home runs and and nine RBIs -- the most in the National League.

Juan Pierre, John Buck
John Buck took a hit behind the plate on Saturday, and got a big one at it, too.
"Trying to keep things simple. I’m just trying to hit the ball solid and really not trying to do more," Buck said. "Fortunate to have guys in front of me having good at-bats."

A nine-year veteran, Buck has had good offensive years before. He hit .281 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs -- all career highs -- with the Blue Jays in 2010, and has had double-digit home run totals in seven of his nine previous seasons.

But last year with the Marlins, Buck hit just .192 in 106 games and 343 at-bats.

"Last year, if something could go wrong, it went wrong. And then I tried harder to fix it. And obviously that’s easier said than done," Buck said. "I may have made it a little harder on myself."

"A change of scenery makes a big difference to a player," manager Terry Collins said. "And I think John came here, obviously after a tough year in Miami last year, and I think he has something to prove -- not just to himself, but to everybody else."

Buck actually was traded twice this past offseason. The Marlins sent him to the Blue Jays in the megadeal that involved Jose Reyes, and then he came to New York as part of the package for R.A. Dickey.

The Mets' primary target in that swap was stud catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud, but if Buck keeps producing like this, d'Arnaud might stay at Triple-A for a while.

Buck deserves some credit for the Mets' strong pitching, too. Through five games, the starting rotation has a sparkling ERA of 1.41.

"He’s been a great situational hitter," captain David Wright said. "And what he’s done behind the plate has been just awesome, especially with this young staff. I think that when he puts down a sign, there’s just a certain confidence about it, and the young guys start believing in what they’re throwing."

Collins moved Buck up to fifth in the lineup Saturday, and it paid major dividends. His sac fly in the first inning tied the game at 1, and then his one-out double in the sixth inning drove home Wright and Ike Davis, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. His final RBI came in the seventh inning, expanding the Mets' lead to 6-3.

The only player in the majors with more runs batted in? The Orioles' Chris Davis, who is off to a historic start, with four homers and 16 RBIs in four games.

But the Mets are plenty happy with Buck's numbers. After all, they got just 48 RBIs from their catchers last season -- the lowest total in the league.

Buck is not getting carried away, however, taking things one game at a time.

"I’ve been around long enough to know, I’ve got a long season ahead of me," Buck said. "If I do want to keep it going this way, I need to kind of stay [on] that even keel, keep trying to not do too much, just have quality at-bats."

So far, so good.