Oakland A's MLN: Buck Shines; HWB Begins

Buck had a lot to smile about this month.

Much of the 2008 season was one to forget for Travis Buck, but the final month of the year was memorable for the Oakland A's outfielder. We have notes on his hot start, the beginning of the Hawaiian Winter Baseball season and more inside...

Buck's Rough Season Has Happy Ending

On September 1st, one would have been hard-pressed to believe that Travis Buck could salvage what was mostly a lost 2008 season. The A's supplemental first round pick was still down at Triple-A and staring at a .160 average and a 556 OPS in the major leagues. However, Buck parlayed a strong post-season with the Triple-A champion Sacramento River Cats into a scorching finish to his major league season.

After going 3-5 with a homerun and a double in the season's final game against his hometown Seattle Mariners, Buck found himself with a more respectable major league statline to take into the off-season. Although his average is still only .226 (a 66-point jump during the month of September), Buck got his slugging percentage up to .432 and he managed to match his 2007 major league homerun total (7) in 44 fewer games. He also wound-up with 25 RBIs in 38 games played for Oakland in 2008.

Buck saved his best baseball of the season for the final series of the year in front of his friends and family in Seattle. In the final three-game set against the Mariners, Buck went 7-15 with two homers and six RBIs. He hit four homers and 10 RBIs over the last 10 games of the year and batted .367 with a 1088 OPS in 49 September at-bats for Oakland. Buck's hot finish should quell any questions as to whether he would enter spring training as the favorite to be a starting outfielder for Oakland on Opening Day 2009.

Hawaiian Winter League Begins

On Saturday, the Hawaiian Winter Baseball league began its 2008 season. Three Oakland A's prospects are on the roster for the North Shore Honu: Sam Demel, Chris Carter and Corey Brown. The Honu are off to a bit of a slow start, as they dropped the first two games of the season over the weekend.

All three prospects appeared in the games this weekend. Demel had a one-inning appearance on Saturday. He worked a hitless inning, walking one and striking out one. Carter collected a hit, a walk and an RBI in seven at-bats over two games. He appeared at first base in both games and had an error in Sunday's game. Brown also had an error out in center on Sunday. He had two hits in eight at-bats and a walk in two games this weekend.

Other News And Notes

* Josh Outman allowed three earned runs in six innings in his final start of the season on Sunday against the Mariners. In 25.2 innings with Oakland, Outman posted a 4.58 ERA and struck-out 19 while walking eight. In four starts, his ERA was 4.22. Outman was acquired in the Joe Blanton trade with Philadelphia and made his major league debut in September.

* After being roughed up in seven big league starts, left-hander Gio Gonzalez looked better in three relief appearances to close-out the year. Gonzalez threw six innings in relief and didn't allow a run. He walked only one after walking 24 in 28 innings as a starter. Walks and homeruns were Gonzalez's problems in his big league outings. He struck-out 34 in 34 innings and held big league hitters to a .242 average, but he walked 25 and gave-up nine homers. Gonzalez will try to build off of his successful relief appearances next spring when he competes for a starting rotation spot with the A's.

* Reliever Joey Devine worked a scoreless inning on Sunday to finish off his remarkable 2008 season with an 0.59 ERA in 45.2 innings. He allowed only 23 hits and no homeruns while striking out 49 and walking 15. Devine set a major league record for the lowest ERA for any pitcher with at least 40 innings. He didn't allow a run in 24 appearances after he was reinstated from the disabled list on August 2nd.

* Rookie left-hander Greg Smith finished the year with 190.1 innings pitched, the most of any A's pitcher this season. Smith tied a major league record with 16 pick-offs. He went only 7-16, but he had a respectable 4.16 ERA.

* Despite trading away four of the team's top starters (Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden) from 2007, the A's pitching staff more than held its own in 2008. The A's finished fourth in the league in team ERA with a 4.02 mark, one point higher than Boston's team ERA. Hitting was another story, however. The A's managed only a team OPS of 686, lowest in the AL by more than 20 points. Oakland batters led the AL in strike-outs.

* Despite breaking the AL strike-out record, Jack Cust led Oakland in most offensive categories. He was the A's team-leader in homeruns (33), RBIs (77) and OPS (852). Cust finished tied for fifth in the league in homers.

* Chris Denorfia went 5-12 with a homer and a double in four games after being promoted back to Oakland in September. Denorfia was the River Cats' co-post-season MVP.

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