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Can Another One Buck The Odds?

Note: Today's A's-Giants game is at 7:00pm PDT and can be seen on Fox Sports Net Bay Area

If you believe in destiny (which Cindi believes is "mass per unit of volume; seriously, I looked it up!"), then you may have to conclude that Travis Buck is destined to play major league baseball in April, 2007. Kielty goes down, Kotsay goes down, Goleski goes down (swinging, every time), and meanwhile Travis Buck just keeps hitting, hitting, hitting--and even finding time to make the occasional circus catch in the outfield.

Yet the smart money remains on Buck to begin the season in the minor leagues, where he can play every day instead of every other week, and where he can face peer competition instead of facing the growing pains of playing above the level where he is "supposed to be". In fact, 99% of the indicators suggest Buck isn't a true contender for an April, 2007 roster spot. The 1% window is Huston Street.

Street was one year removed from college when he came to spring training in 2005, presumably with only the chance to open some eyes before further honing his skills in the minors. But the minors never happened, because Street proved to be just too major-league ready. His stuff was there, he was mentally ready, and he was up to every challenge the A's threw his way in the Cactus League. He left the A's with no reasons to exclude him from the major-league roster, because he was clearly one of the 12 pitchers in camp. And if Buck proves to be clearly one of the best 25 players in camp, or clearly one of the best 4-5 outfielders in camp, or clearly one of the best hitters in camp--well, what are you going to do?

Now there is one key difference between Street and Buck, which may doom Buck's chances. As a 4th or 5th short-to-middle reliever out of the bullpen, Street was still likely to see enough work to stay sharp and continue developing, even if he didn't earn his way into the closer's role. Arguably, a 5th outfielder could more easily get Perezified than Street was likely to get Yabused.

Still, in spring training so far Buck has shown some qualities the A's just can't ignore. If he can hit major league pitching, and if he can stay healthy, he has a leg (and a knee, and a back) up on his outfield peers and he could put some interesting Street-like pressure on the coaching staff at the end of the month. After all, nobody wants to look back one day in 2008 and be forced to say, "Travis, you're a year too late."