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Tuesday, August 20, 2013
John Buck OK as backup

By Matt Ehalt

NEW YORK -- Veteran Mets catcher John Buck understands the team making top prospect Travis d'Arnaud the starter while relegating him to a backup role.

"It's not my first year around so I figured that obviously playing time would be lessened, but it's kind of the nature of the beast," Buck said Tuesday after returning from paternity leave. "You've got your top prospect up, you're not gonna let him just sit there, so I understand that."

Buck had been the Mets' starting catcher all year, but that has changed with d'Arnaud's arrival. D'Arnaud was expected to challenge Buck for the starting role earlier this season, but broke the first metatarsal in his left foot, delaying his debut.

D'Arnaud debuted Saturday as Buck went on paternity leave as his wife, Brooke, delivered the couple's third boy, Bentley Ryan. Buck hopped on a red-eye flight in San Diego, arriving in New York around 6 a.m., and the baby was delivered at 9:42 a.m.

"Kind of funny, I walked in and all the nurses are like, 'Yeah, you made it' and I'm like 'So I'm good?' They're like, 'Yeah, she's in there.'" Buck said. "So I had a whole hospital rooting for me to get there. That was kind of fun."

Buck, who is a free agent after the season, hasn't been told how much playing time he will receive, although manager Terry Collins said he'll have a big role. Buck plans to help d'Arnaud by answering any questions the youngster might have, passing along knowledge he's learned during his 10-year career. Buck praised d'Arnaud for having a great attitude and wanting to learn and get better.

Mets manager Terry Collins, who said he's already planned out approximately the next two weeks' catching schedule, complimented Buck for handling the demotion with class. He added that he knows that Buck wants to play more.

"John Buck's not at the end of his career, by any means or stretch of the imagination. Don't think this is John Buck being the coach. This is John Buck being a professional and trying to help one of his teammates get better, as he would with Anthony Recker, as he's done with anybody else that would be up here," Collins said. "I told him, 'you got to get ready to play each and every day. We'll ask your input in a lot of pregame stuff to get Travis ready to catch our staff and get ready for the opposition. He knows this division better than anybody. He's been in it for three years. His knowledge is going to be used to the max but by no means is he just another guy who's going to coach Travis d'Arnaud to be better. He's here to be a teammate and when he's in that lineup to produce."

D'Arnaud will have the final 39 games to showcase his skills to the Mets, and attempt to prove that he should be the Opening Day starter next year.

"We're going to see the everyday regular lineups of guys that are still competing for something," Collins said. "We should get a nice sampling of whether or not we think Travis is going to be able to handle it."