The Padres optioned left-handed reliever Ryan Buchter to Triple-A El Paso on Saturday, according to Carlos Collazo of MLB.com. The 29-year-old rookie has been a highly productive part of the Friars’ bullpen this season, but they sent him down amid concerns about fatigue and a decline in spin rate. Buchter has relied almost exclusively on his fastball, which FanGraphs’ Eno Sarris wrote earlier this month has been among the best of its kind in terms of spin rate.
“We’ve pushed him hard all season. He’s got more appearances right now than he’s had at any point in time in his career,” manager Andy Green said in regards to Buchter’s demotion. “He threw 25 innings in winter ball. It’s been a long year for him.”
Prior to Thursday, Buchter had worked 11 straight scoreless appearances and, along with fellow southpaw Brad Hand, served as one of the Padres’ top relievers in 2016. He then pitched in each of San Diego’s previous two games and allowed earned runs in both outings. Buchter recorded just one out Friday and surrendered two runs on a hit and a pair of walks. Still, the offseason minor league signing has been a significant steal for the Padres, with whom he has recorded a 3.00 ERA, 11.33 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 across 54 innings. While the longtime minor leaguer is worst among all qualified relievers in ground-ball percentage (19.5), he has offset that to a degree with a quality infield fly rate (14.9 percent).
With Buchter headed back to the minors, where he pitched with a handful of different organizations from 2006-15, the Padres have recalled fellow southpaw reliever Keith Hessler to take his place in their bullpen. However, Buchter still seems to figure prominently into their plans at the major league level.
“He’s healthy. He just needs a little reprieve,” Green said of Buchter. “I think smart organizations do that from time to time. They look at a guy and recognize what he needs and get him back here and let him back into his role that he’s been dominant in for the better part of the season.”