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Bucking the odds: Outfielder out to stick with Padres

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GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For each of the last six years, Travis Buck has entered Spring Training without any assurance of making the Major League roster on Opening Day.

But for every season since 2007, the 29-year-old has beaten the odds stacked against him. The only problem for Buck has been staying put once on the roster.

Now in Padres camp with his fourth team in as many years, the outfielder is not only battling outside chances to make the 25-man roster out of Spring Training, but to hopefully stick around if he does extend his streak to a seventh consecutive season.

"I embrace it. It's pretty remarkable if you really think about it," he said about his six-year run. "I've been fortunate enough where I've gone to places where I had the chance to make a roster. I know coming in I will get a lot of at-bats, play every day and show the team what I'm all about."

Unlike a lot of his veteran teammates, Buck isn't afforded the luxury of working himself up to speed during Spring Training. With a job on the line, his regular season began the first day of camp.

"I have to produce from Day 1," he said. "I have to get my body ready for that right off the bat. I can't use Spring Training to get into shape. Does that cause too much pressure? Not really, because I believe in my abilities and my background speaks for itself."

Last season with the Astros, Buck won a spot on the roster by hitting .280 in spring. He continued his success through Opening Day, even boasting a .302 average on May 8. But that's when his season began to tailspin.

Over the next three weeks, Buck collected just three hits in 31 at-bats, eventually resulting in the Astros designating him for assignment after placing him on the disabled list with a heel injury.

"I was brought in as a fifth outfielder and a lefty off the bench, and for the first month or so I was up there, I think I led all of baseball in pinch-hit hits," he said. "I did my job to a point, but when I began to start some, I struggled a bit."

When Buck returned to the field, he hit .359 at the Triple-A level but never got called back up to Houston. The outfielder says he is healthy now with no lingering effects from last season.

Barring injury, the Padres outfield is already crowded with Carlos Quentin, Cameron Maybin, Will Venable, Chris Denorfia, Jesus Guzman and Mark Kotsay holding down spots. But still, Buck believes he can make impact at some point.

So far this spring, he is batting .375 with four RBIs, including one Friday against the Dodgers.

"The situation here is the outfield is set, but if God forbid something happens, I just want to show them what I'm all about," Buck said. "Hopefully they see me playing at some point this year. I know if I do get the chance, I'll have to produce right away and hopefully produce at a high level for however long I'm up there. That improves my chances of hanging around."

If Buck doesn't make the Padres out of camp, he'll head to Triple-A Tucson where he'll be reunited with his college baseball coach from Arizona State, Pat Murphy. Playing for the coach in college, Buck was an All-Pac-10 player, impressing the Athletics enough to draft him in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.

"Worse-case scenario I'm playing at Triple-A for a guy I love, I respect and he's a good friend," Buck said. "I'd run through a wall for him. Playing this game, you don't get a chance to play for guys like that very often. If it wasn't for him and getting me so mentally prepared, I wouldn't have made it to the big leagues as fast as I did. He has everything to do that. This game is about so much more than ability. He treated ASU like a professional organization."

Even if Buck's presence doesn't end up being felt on the field in a major way, he thinks he can help some of his teammates along their way by sharing what he has dealt with.

"I've been through everything a player can go through in this game," he said. "So I've tried to share my experiences with some of the younger guys, hopefully so stuff like that doesn't happen to him. I had a lot of bad things happen to me, but it's allowed me to grow as a player."

Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["spring_training" ] }
{"event":["spring_training" ] }
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