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After uncertain offseason, Buck settling in nicely

After uncertain offseason, Buck settling in nicely

NEW YORK -- John Buck was involved in two blockbuster trades this winter, and somewhere along the way he became a cleanup hitter. Buck, dealt first from Miami to Toronto and then to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey trade, has been one of the league's biggest surprises so far this season.

The 32-year-old catcher batted just .192 with 12 home runs and 41 RBIs in 106 games for Miami last season, but he hit .255 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs in his first 26 games as a Met. Buck had only hit cleanup five times prior to this season, but he's already done it eight times this year.

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"It's a little different now than maybe it was when I was younger," said Buck, who led the National League in RBIs heading into Tuesday's game. "Whether I'm hitting eighth or ninth -- or wherever I am in the lineup -- I've been around long enough where pitching coaches and pitchers know me. They pitch me the way they think they can get me out no matter if I'm in the four-hole or the six-hole."

Buck has batted .250 with a .500 slugging percentage in the cleanup slot for the Mets, and he's homered two times in 32 at-bats from that part of the lineup. The veteran has also sizzled as the No. 7 hitter, where he's posted a .318 average and an .810 slugging percentage this season.

Buck went to the All-Star Game in 2010 when he pounded a career-best 20 home runs, and he could be in the mix for another All-Star berth this season. There's still plenty of time left in the season, but Buck's star turn comes after being traded twice and not knowing at all what to expect.

First, there was the trade that sent him from Miami to Toronto with former Met Jose Reyes, and Buck didn't have much time to let that trade sink in. The backstop was traded to the Mets less than a month later, and he's spent the last five weeks taking out his frustrations on opposing pitchers.

"It's been fun. It's only been good pressure," said Buck. "Coming over here, there was all that excitement. I'm very optimistic about the team and the season, so it's all been good stuff for me."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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