Mailbag: Are Buck and LaRue too alike?

Mailbag: Are Buck and LaRue two of the same?

Please send your questions to and don't forget to include your first name, last initial and hometown.

Can you explain why the Royals traded for Jason LaRue, who seems similar to John Buck?
-- William S., Columbia, Mo.

First of all, you get an established Major League catcher in LaRue with a bonus -- the Reds are going to pay about half of his $5.4 million salary. Not that the Royals are anxious to trade Buck, but adding LaRue at least gives them an option if a can't-refuse deal involving Buck comes along.

But you're right about some similarities. Both are right-handed hitters with strong power potential, both are high-strikeout and low-walk batters. The book is that LaRue is often overly aggressive, and that Buck is not aggressive enough at times.

Buck's game-calling expertise has come quickly, and he'll have the advantage of knowing batters over LaRue, who is switching leagues. For a tall guy, Buck is good at blocking pitches in the dirt. LaRue had a Major League-high 15 passed balls in 2004, but he cut that to six in 2005, his last full season. Buck has just 15 passed balls in his 2 1/2-season career. LaRue has a gun, throwing out nearly 37 percent of would-be base-stealers in his career. Buck's mark is 26 percent.

Both have faced big challenges, each catching the last-place pitching staff in their leagues in recent seasons.

General manager Dayton Moore sees a lively competition for playing time between LaRue, 32, and Buck, 26. That's always a plus.

It's been said that the Royals are tossing around the idea of having Zack Greinke close games next year. Do you think he could do it?
-- Ray M., Salina, Kan.

Without a doubt. Although sidetracked by psychological issues last season, Greinke returned to pitch well for Double-A Wichita. He's very savvy for his age, has power as well as finesse, and always seems comfortable on the mound. Just 23, Greinke might be more valuable as a starter on a club that needs to establish a rotation for the long term.

Do you think Moore will bring up Alex Gordon to the big leagues if he does well in Spring Training?
-- Amber, Basehor, Kan.

Although Moore likes to see prospects work their way throughout the Minor Leagues, he's hinted that third baseman Gordon could skip the Triple-A level next season if he's deemed ready for Kansas City. Gordon actually was ready for Triple-A Omaha by last May, but was kept at Wichita to experience a pennant chase with a close-knit club.

Please explain the Rule 5 Draft and how a team loses or acquires a player through this process.
--Andy A., Lenexa, Kan.

A staple of the Winter Meetings, scheduled this year Dec. 3-7 at Orlando, Fla., the Rule 5 Draft gives clubs a shot at younger players who might be spinning their wheels in another organization. Simply put, a player becomes eligible either four or five years after signing his first pro contract if he's not protected on a club's 40-man roster. By selecting him, a team must fork over $50,000 and keep the player on the 25-man roster all season. Or, after putting the player through waivers, offer him back to his original club for $25,000. Naturally, there's some tinkering that can be done, too. Last year, for example, the Royals drafted pitcher Fabio Castro from the White Sox organization as the No. 1 pick. Then they immediately traded him to the Rangers for infielder Esteban German. Another point: the Royals don't have to protect Gordon or Billy Butler, to name two hot prospects, because they haven't been playing long enough.

How is Scott Elarton coming along? Is he out at his Colorado ranch chunking at the rattlesnakes?
-- Rip T., Clarksville, Ark.

Last we heard, Elarton was coming along fine after arm surgery but won't be ready to pitch until about June 1. No report on rattlesnake chunking.

What kind of pitching are the Royals looking for? I feel they'd benefit by picking up someone like Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, David Wells or Roger Clemens.
-- Jason Peck, Loup City, Neb.

Who wouldn't? However, guys of that caliber, in addition to being very pricey, are at the stage of their careers where they'd like to be on a club that looks like a sure pennant contender. The Royals are looking for more middle-tier free agents upon which to build a rotation.

With your access to the Royals, who gets your vote as the clubhouse clown?
-- Chris K., Lincoln, Neb.

Shortstop Angel Berroa. He's capable of wild animal noises, impersonations of players or TV personalities, zipping remote-controlled toy cars over teammates' feet, and generally disturbing the peace.

Dick Kaegel is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.