David Buchanan’s little slice of heaven is in the outfield. He might be a pitcher by trade, but there are few things the 29-year old enjoys more than running, jumping and sliding around the outfield shagging fly balls during batting practice before games.
“You ask any pitcher, shagging BP is the best part of the day,” the Tokyo Yakult Swallows hurler told The Japan Times. “It’s fun. That’s what it’s all about. If you lose that kid in you, you need to stop playing.”
Buchanan is still well in touch with his inner child and is enjoying playing a role in what will almost assuredly be a run to the playoffs for the Swallows, who are currently in second place in the Central League.
In a rotation that has been beset by injury, Buchanan has been one of the few near-constants for the Birds. He’s 9-10 with a 4.00 ERA this season and leads the team with 16 quality starts. He’s the clubs only qualified pitcher, having thrown 164⅓ innings. He’s pitched well, but not as well as he would’ve liked.
“I have that one inning that’s been killing me all year,” he said. “So that’s one thing to try to finish out this year and build off of, to minimize those big innings.”
That goal will take on even more importance in October, when the Central League Climax Series begins. It’ll be a busy month for Buchanan, as his first trip to the NPB postseason will coincide with his becoming a father for the first time. His wife Ashley is due to have a baby very soon.
“It’ll be toward the end of the season. So I’m hoping it works out where it’s during that break (before the playoffs begin) where I can go home and see the baby, only for like a day or two unfortunately, and then come back,” he said.
All he can do now, on both fronts, is wait and prepare.
On the field, he’ll be looking to go into the playoffs on a high note. With nine wins, he’s one away from reaching double digits in Japan for the first time.
Buchanan, who only won six games in 2017 despite a 3.66 ERA, wants to hit the mark, but says it’s more important to put the Swallows in the best position to win — no matter which pitcher ultimately gets the “W.”
“It’s hard to control wins,” he said. “Anything can happen. If you go out there and give your team a chance to win, if you have the right approach, then you’re happy with that.
“Obviously from a business standpoint, wins are nice but as far as a teammate standpoint and what matters, if you give a team a chance to win, that’s all that matters.”
What Buchanan can control is keeping a positive outlook and mindset.
He doesn’t obsess over bad stretches (or good ones), preferring to take things start-by-start or pitch-by-pitch. “If you start thinking of patches and too far ahead, things will get out of your control,” he says.
One thing that’s helped his disposition is the support from the Swallows’ fanbase.
“I feel like they’re so happy all the time,” Buchanan said. “Whether you do good or bad, they just love you because you’re a ballplayer. I’ve had games where I throw a shutout and fans have waited an hour just to clap for me when I walk out of the clubhouse. I’ve had games where I’ve given up 10 runs, and I walk out and they’re just clapping, saying ‘nice pitching, get ’em next time.’
“It’s just a little different feel from the States. You never get booed, you never get yelled at. It’s nice to get treated like that, whether you win or lose. They’re fans of you and they’re fans of baseball. Obviously they want you to win, but they don’t judge you off of your wins and losses, which is nice.”