The first quarter of the San Diego Padres season has brought on similar feelings of frustrations like any other recent year. The lack of hitting, the poor play at Petco Park, and of course, the impressive number of injuries. Just when you think the team may have hit their stride, the Padres hit the snooze button on any remote chance of excitement. The last 10 days is a perfect example: completed road trip with a winning record followed by being swept by the Giants.
Ryan Buchter is doing all he can to keep fans interested. The 29-year-old minor league journeyman has been a pleasant bright spot for the Padres in his first real opportunity on a 25 man roster. Before this season his resume at the major league level included a lone inning pitched for the Atlanta Braves in 2014.
Buchter is on his fifth organization since being drafted by the Washington Nationals back in 2005 in the 33rd round. He has spent seasons in the minors with the Nats, the Braves, the Chicago Cubs (two different stints), and the blue colored team in Los Angeles.
Despite very successful seasons in AAA the last few seasons, Buchter couldn’t breakthrough with a MLB roster for more than a few days until this spring. He signed with the Padres on a minor league contract over the winter and earned a spot in the bullpen after a very impressive spring training. He has only made smart men out of Andy Green and A.J. Preller since then.
This season through 20 appearances, Buchter has pitched 19 innings while allowing only one earned run and eight hits. He has walked ten batters compared to striking out twenty five. For a guy who was probably seen as a left-handed specialist heading into the season, he has clearly outperformed expectations which has led to an increased role as another setup option alongside Brandon Maurer.
The Padres bullpen was a big question mark before the season. The entire staff was due for a makeover after the departures of Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, Shawn Kelley, and Nick Vincent. Fernando Rodney was brought in for closing duties and has been perfect thus far in save chances. But after Rodney it has been Buchter having the most success. Both management and fans would have to feel comfortable with Buchter sliding into the setup/closer role if another injury was to happen. Not wishing anything of course, but having reliable depth in the back of the bullpen is a luxury not all teams have.
Year in and year out it seems like the pieces just fall into place when it comes to the San Diego Padres bullpen. At the same time, not enough opportunities are given since that involves scoring runs and taking the lead in games.