Spring training in Tucson: Mini Tucson Padres preview today

2013-03-17T00:00:00Z Spring training in Tucson: Mini Tucson Padres preview todayDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Travis Buck and Jaff Decker don't have a ton in common.

Buck, 29, was a college phenom at Arizona State, making the All-Pac-10 first team twice and collecting the eighth-most career hits in program history. The Richland, Wash., native is a sturdy 6 feet 2 inches and 230 pounds, and if Hollywood ever needed a baseball player to duplicate, Buck would be a good choice.

Decker, 23, never played college baseball. He was drafted out of high school by the San Diego Padres as the No. 42 overall pick in 2008 and is now nearing his fifth season of professional baseball. At 5-10, 190 and often labeled a "bad body guy" inside baseball circles, Decker won't ever be confused with Buck.

But there's at least one thing the two ballplayers have in common: They would run through a wall for new Tucson Padres manager Pat Murphy.

Decker will be in the Old Pueblo today when the San Diego Padres play the Arizona Diamondbacks at Kino Stadium in a spring training game at 1 p.m. Both Buck and Decker are likely ticketed for Triple-A Tucson.

Buck played for Murphy at ASU. Decker signed with the Sun Devils but bypassed college when the Padres drafted him.

Buck, speaking at Padres camp in Peoria last week, called Murphy "a guy that I consider a very good friend, and he wants the best for me."

"My goal is to obviously make the big-league team out of spring, but just knowing the worst-case scenario is I'm going down to Tucson to play for a guy that I respect and love - I can't go wrong either way," he said.

Decker said: "I love Murph. It's a good relationship. He sees the game a different way. Just talking to him and being around him makes you learn more and more about the game."

Buck and Decker will likely team with returner Daniel Robertson to form Tucson's starting outfield. Here's a closer look at the two outfielders.

Travis Buck

Last year: Opened the year with the Houston Astros and played in 33 games before being sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City. There, in 22 games, he batted .359.

Baseball history: After his brilliant career at ASU, Buck was selected No. 36 overall by the Oakland Athletics in 2005. His career got off to a healthy start, never batting lower than .320 in his first two minor-league seasons. He was ranked as the 50th-best prospect in baseball in 2007 and made the A's out of spring training. He has become somewhat of a journeyman since, playing with Cleveland, Houston and now San Diego.

What to know: Buck has made an opening day big-league roster in each of the least six years.

Quotable: "The outfield in San Diego is pretty much set. I knew that coming in. The biggest thing I wanted to show them is that I want them to believe and know that I can help them this year and in the future. The biggest selling point for me signing with them was Coach Murphy." - Buck

Jaff Decker

Last year: Decker tore a plantar tendon in late May and played in just 47 games for Double-A San Antonio. He was batting just .184 with three home runs before the season-ending surgery.

Baseball history: Decker had a standout prep career at Peoria Sunrise Mountain and was then drafted by the Padres, who train in his hometown. His best season came in 2011, when he hit 19 home runs and had 92 RBIs in 133 games for San Antonio. Last year was the first time in Decker's career he didn't start the season at a level higher than where he ended the previous season. He has 61 career home runs and 45 career stolen bases.

What to know: Decker was a two-sport star at Sunrise Mountain. As a junior, he was the starting quarterback when the Mustangs lost at Salpointe Catholic 50-2. He had 76 total yards.

Quotable: "Last year was tough. I don't know if I've ever gone that long without being on a baseball field. It was hard to deal with. It made me sit back and see things differently. Now, I'm just excited to get back out there and start having some fun again." - Decker

Spring training

• What: D-backs (ss) vs. Padres (ss)

• Where: Kino Stadium

• When: 1 p.m.

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

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