The Berks-Mont News (

Little-known Buchanan starting to get noticed


Tuesday, February 25, 2014

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Almost from the moment David Buchanan was drafted by the Phillies in 2010, he heard the comparisons to Kyle Kendrick.

“Everybody says it,” Buchanan said Tuesday after working two scoreless innings for Team Truby in a 7-2, six-inning win over Team Abad in the Phillies’ intrasquad scrimmage at Bright House Field. “They’ll say I’m KK’s brother. That’s the joke, they’ll call me K Jr.

“One of the coordinators — Greg Legg, actually — was walking behind me the other day and was like, ‘Hey, KK,’ and I said, ‘Nope, Buchanan.’ We get mixed up a lot.”

If Buchanan’s name doesn’t ring a bell to fans of the Phillies, that isn’t a surprise. He wasn’t a first-round pick like Jesse Biddle, doesn’t throw 100 mph like Kenny Giles, isn’t a mystery Cuban refugee like Miguel Gonzalez. He isn’t on any Top 10 prospect lists, doesn’t have a pitch considered the best in the organization, and was left off the 40-man roster and available to any takers at the Rule 5 draft.

There were none.

Even Ryne Sandberg didn’t know a lot about the 24-year-old right-hander when they first shook hands at the Phillies’ seminar for prospects over the winter.

“Not much,” Sandberg said of his knowledge of Buchanan at the time. “I got to meet him and talk to him at the prospects group … He was one of the leaders of the group as far as asking good questions.”

Most of what gets Buchanan overlooked are the things that get his pitching compared to Kendrick’s: He isn’t overpowering, but he uses a sinker and control on the corners to coax ground balls and keep his team in games. That capability has earned Kendrick 153 starts and 64 wins over the last seven seasons with the Phillies, not to mention a $7.7 million deal in 2014 as he approaches free agency.

“Hey, Kyle Kendrick is an outstanding pitcher,” said Buchanan, who went 6-11 with a 4.82 ERA in 22 starts for Double-A Reading, but 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA in six starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley to end 2013. “His success is proof in the pudding. That’s definitely not a guy I’m ashamed to be like. If I can follow in his shoes, that’s OK with me.”

Buchanan’s overall numbers last season were pedestrian, but he got off to a slow start after having surgery to repair a troublesome tendon in his middle finger late in 2012. In his last 15 starts for Reading he had a 4.05 ERA and in his last 21 outings overall that ERA dipped to 3.73.

“Attacking the strike zone is something that he showed me he could do well last year and what we stressed with him when he came to Lehigh Valley,” Iron Pigs pitching coach Ray Burris said. “He’s like a sponge. When you hear moms and grandmoms say, ‘Spoon-feed a child,’ he’s like that. He wants all of the information right now, so you have to take it one step at a time. But the foundation is there to work with a young man like that.”

Frankly, the Phils could use another Kendrick-quality starter to emerge from the system this year. When they signed A.J. Burnett less than two weeks ago, it wasn’t done out of luxury.

It was a necessity for an organization whose starting pitching depth in the minors got slowed and/or derailed over the last 12 months. Biddle had an inconsistent year. Adam Morgan had arm trouble. Jonathan Pettibone pitched well with the Phils, but had his 2013 end with shoulder soreness and had the same issue when he arrived to camp. Early observations have Gonzalez either far from big-league ready or lacking the skills to be there at all. Ethan Martin would be converted to a reliever if starting depth weren’t desperate.

Buchanan is off to an impressive start to camp. He struck out a major-league outfielder in John Mayberry Jr. and the team’s top hitting prospect in Maikel Franco back to back after allowing a leadoff single to Bobby Abreu and zipped through the final six batters he faced without issue.

“I felt good,” Buchanan said. “The one thing that’s been stressed in camp is to pound the strike zone and work ahead and stay at the knees.”

“He was composed,” Sandberg said. “I’m not surprised he’s composed because of the way he acted in Philadelphia when I saw him. He did a nice job.

“Throwing strikes is the philosophy in the camp — down at the knees, working ahead in the count. He’s an example of a guy today who executed that and got the results.”

Interestingly, many of the more-hyped prospects struggled with that. Biddle got knocked around, as did Giles. That lack of polish shows against big-league hitters. But Buchanan seems to have that part of the game more in control. And that might make him the pitcher you see when the inevitable injury takes a dent out of the starting rotation in Philly.

“I try not to get too caught up in that,” Buchanan said. “All those decisions are made at a level higher than what I am. All I can do is take the ball and grind as long as I can.”