MIAMI -- John Buck kept it straight and simple at his introductory news conference last week, providing safe answers to a string of basic questions.
Yes, he can't wait to work with the cadre of Marlins pitchers when he takes over behind the plate. Yes, he's looking forward to playing in the new ballpark when it opens in 2012. No, he doesn't think the draining and debilitating South Florida summers will take a toll on him.
"If you play baseball, you should be used to the heat," Buck said after slipping on a Marlins jersey and posing for cameras. "You've been playing in the heat since you were 9 years old. If you're a catcher, you kind of learn how to deal with it."
Ah, but where Buck breaks from the matter-of-fact routine is when he is asked about reliever Leo Nunez, the only Marlin with whom he has had a working relationship in the past. Buck, who inked a three-year, $18 million deal with the Marlins, caught for Nunez when they played in Kansas City from 2005 to 2008.
"I know Nunez very well," Buck said, breaking into a grin when Nunez is mentioned. "It looks like he's 6 years old out there throwing 100 mph, right? It still baffles me how a little body like that can throw the ball that hard."
The Marlins signed Buck for a "package," according to general manager Mike Hill. But what went unmentioned at Buck's introduction was that he could hold the key to the unpredictable Nunez, the sometimes flashy, sometimes faulty closer for the Marlins.
Sources said the Marlins will offer arbitration to Nunez, who could command a $4 million salary in 2012. That would make him the highest-paid reliever on the team. Because he has worked with Nunez in the past, Buck knows his strengths and weaknesses and hopes to exploit the former while eliminating the latter.
"He's a competitor, and he has to the attitude of 'It's going to be me or you today,"' Buck said. "He'll go after you whether he's getting hit or not."
Said Buck: "The thing for me is, when he overthrows his changeup a little bit, that's when he definitely gets hurt."
That's one reason Nunez had to give up the closer's role toward the end of last season, even after manager Edwin Rodriguez set him aside and told him to cool it on the changeup. Buck said it is his intention to work with Nunez and help put him on track.
--When asked to project the Marlins' lineup, Rodriguez reminded everyone that it is still too early to decide. But here's what he's thinking at the moment: Chris Coghlan leading off, followed by Omar Infante and Hanley Ramirez. Mike Stanton, Buck, Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison will bat fourth through seventh in some order. Matt Dominguez or Emilio Bonifacio would bat eighth.