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Notes: Buck ending season on high note

Notes: Buck ending '07 on high note

CLEVELAND -- For John Buck, as the days dwindle down to a precious few, the important thing is that he's feeling comfortable at the plate.

As the Royals' primary catcher, he's experienced an up-and-down season when it comes to at-bats. But as Kansas City prepared to meet Cleveland on Friday night, Buck was carrying a seven-game hitting streak in which he was 9-for-26, for a .346 average.

This season, Buck has started 93 games, and backup Jason LaRue has started 51.

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"It's kind of a weird deal," Buck said. "We were having a competition at the beginning of the year, or what they said was going to be a competition. And then, basically, we kind of platooned the whole year.

"It is what it is and, hopefully, I can kind of finish up strong."

If Buck hits two more home runs, he'll match the Royals record for a catcher, 20, set by Darrell Porter in 1979 and Mike Macfarlane in 1993.

"I have 200-something at-bats less than [New York's Jorge] Posada and Victor [Martinez of the Indians], and they're a couple of home runs ahead," he said.

"So that's a positive in my season that I need to hold on to, because that's production at the highest level. You've got to take those in stride as well as you do your negatives."

Buck's 18 home runs came in 312 at-bats, which ranks 25th among at-bats for Major League catchers. Martinez had his 21 homers in 515 at-bats, the MLB high; Posada has 20 in 459 at-bats.

Buck is also behind the Giants' Bengie Molina, who has 19 homers in 455 at-bats.

"He's got a tough job, and he's going to be a guy who's going to hit for more power than he does average. He's so big," manager Buddy Bell said. "He's always working at it, and at some point it's going to pay off."

Oddly enough, 10 of Buck's 18 blasts have led off an inning, and three others have been solo shots.

Buck's average, .234, and RBIs, 47, are modest. But he's just three RBIs behind his career high, set last year in 371 at-bats.

His production has improved since he's reverted to his early-season batting style, which involves something of a leg kick. And the less he thinks about it, the better.

"I'm just going up there for a hit," Buck said. "It's a little easier that way. I do feel more comfortable, and that's kind of what I'm sticking with."

Bell is most concerned with another aspect of Buck's play.

"The thing for me, though, is he's done a great job defensively -- calling games, blocking balls, just everything," Bell said. "The kid just has done a great job."

LaRue has struggled all along and is batting just .146 with four homers and 13 RBIs.

"Defensively, both Bucky and Jason have done a great job, I think," Bell said.

Pitching switch: The Indians have changed their rotation, dropping Paul Byrd from Sunday's start against the Royals in favor of left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-1, 5.29 ERA). Byrd made one start against the Royals this season, on June 6, and lost after giving up 10 hits and four runs in six innings.

On this date: In 1986, Bo Jackson hit the longest home run ever recorded at Kauffman Stadium, off the Mariners' Mike Moore. The distance to the hill in left-center field: 475 feet. The Royals won, 10-3.

Coming up: The Royals will send right-hander Zack Greinke (6-5, 3.99 ERA) against the Indians at 6:05 p.m. CT on Saturday at Jacobs Field. The Tribe will start right-hander Fausto Carmona (16-8, 3.20).

Dick Kaegel 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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