Born: February 13, 1987
Ryan James Buchter was born February 13, 1987 in Reading, PA and grew up in the Camden County town of Blackwood. Tall and athletic, he was a star in youth league baseball and had a fastball that touched 90 mph while he pitched for Highland Regional High School. His mechanics and control were a mess, however, and as a senior it became clear that if he had a future in baseball it would be as a left-handed reliever. The Washington Nationals believed they could straighten Ryan out and selected him in the 33rd round of the 2005 draft.
The Nats suggested to Ryan that he pitch a year of college ball. Gloucester County College, which had won the National Junior College title the year before, was just 20 minutes away. He joined a Roadrunners team that ran roughshod over opponents. As the closer, Ryan saw precious little action in high-leverage situations. He got his big break in a regional tournament when he made a spot start and blew away batters for six innings. That was enough for the Nationals, who signed him to his first contract.
Over the next 10 seasons, Ryan toiled in the minors for the Nationals, Cubs, Braves, Dodgers and Padres. He was untouchable at times, but mostly inconsistent. Various coaches tried to iron out his complex, cross-fire delivery with varying degrees of success. In 2014, Ryan was called up by the Braves and pitched the 12th inning in a victory over his old team, the Nationals. He got the win, but also a ticket back to Gwinnett.
In 2016, after a great winter season with the Culiacan Tomateros of Mexico’s Pacific League, Ryan got his first real shot in the majors with the last-place San Diego Padres. He appeared in 67 games and struck out 78 batters in 63 innings of relief. The difference was a simplification of his mechanics. Although Ryan still had a funky, deceptive delivery, it was now repeatable. His fastball, usually in the low 90s, got on top of hitters before they could pick it up. It had a great spin rate, too, which made it move within the strike zone. Batters knew what was coming—Ryan rarely used his off-speed pitches—but struggled to barrel it up.
Prior to the trade deadline in 2017, the Padres shipped Ryan, Trevor Cahill and Brandon Maurer to the Royals, who were fighting for a playoff pot in the AL Central. Hel allowed a total of 24 hits and walks in 27 innings down the stretch, but Kansas City failed to snare a Wild Card spot. Prior to spring training in 2018, Ryan switched uniforms again. The Royals included him in a package to the Oakland A’s. Ryan was one of their best situational relievers. He turned in a 2.78 ERA and was credited with 6 wins while not being charged with a loss. The A’s made the playoffs but lost the Wild Card game to the Yankees, 7–2. Ryan did not pitch in the game.
In 2019, Ryan got his first big contract. He was somewhat less effective but continued to be a valued arm out of the pen, with a sub-3.00 ERA in 64 innings. The A’s made it to the Wild Card game again, but lost to Tampa Bay, 5–1. Once again, Ryan did not get the call during the Oakland loss.