CLEVELAND -- Travis Buck is hoping that switching to a different bat is the solution to his early season slump. The only problem is that the Indians' outfielder may have discovered his problem a little too late.
With center fielder Grady Sizemore expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list soon, Buck appears to be the most vulnerable player on Cleveland's active roster. Buck is trying to worry less about that, concentrating more on solving his offensive struggles.
"Maybe I'm trying a little too hard," Buck said on Saturday morning. "I'm in such a positive environment that I want to help out the team as much as I can. But the Grady situation, I'm not worried about that at all. I'm just going out there and playing and things are going to take care of itself.
"I feel great. I'm healthy. The confidence is back to where I feel I can do damage up at the plate now."
The confidence is there after Buck borrowed Michael Brantley's bat during batting practice on Friday. After using a C243 model throughout Spring Training and early this year, Buck asked Brantley if he could give his C241 a try. Immediately, Buck felt a difference in his swing.
That bat Buck had been using was a 34-inch, 31.5-ounce strip of lumber with a thicker barrel. He used it in the spring and hit .393 over 20 Cactus League games. Brantley's model is a 34-inch, 32-ounce bat, but the barrel is slimmer, which Buck said feels quicker through his swing.
"Once the season came along," Buck said, "playing every day, the long days, the traveling, your body kind of tires down at times. I was still swinging the same bat early on in the season and I was like, 'What's going on?'
"I didn't really have much feel for the barrel. I was choking up a little bit, trying to find the barrel, trying to feel a little more comfortable. [After switching bats] I finally felt the whip and my hands going. The ball was coming off like it was in the spring."
After using the new bat in a 3-for-4 showing during Saturday's 8-3 win over the Orioles, Buck improved his average to .231 through eight games played for the Indians. Both Buck and Shelley Duncan have Minor League options -- meaning they can be sent down without consequence -- but Duncan has hit .300 in a limited role.
Buck has always been a slow starter -- evidenced by his .183 career average for April -- and he believes a lot of the explanation rests in the type of bat that was in his hands. Unfortunately, when Sizemore rejoins Cleveland's roster, Buck will likely be the odd man out.