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IronPigs pitcher David Buchanan. (EMILY PAINE / THE MORNING CALL)
EMILY PAINE / THE MORNING CALL
IronPigs pitcher David Buchanan. (EMILY PAINE / THE MORNING CALL)
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David Buchanan found a wife and a home in the Lehigh Valley back in 2014.

Buchanan thought he found a home in the Phillies organization, too, but he realized by the end of 2016 that it was time for a change.

“I knew the writing on the wall,” he said. “I knew where I was at as far as priorities go in the organization. It wasn’t a bad thing, just a reality aspect for me.”

Buchanan and wife Ashley weighed their options and took a chance on making a big move to Asia. The right-handed pitcher played three seasons (2017-19) in Japan and four in Korea (2020-23).

The Phillies’ 2010 seventh-round draft pick could have signed a multiyear contract to stay in Korea, but at 34 years old he opted to take another a chance on pitching in the United States where the Phillies took another chance on him.

Buchanan begins his comeback journey Easter Sunday when he faces Worcester in a 1:35 p.m. start. It is 2,763 days in between starts for the IronPigs.

The home clubhouse has been completely revamped since his Sept. 5, 2016, start when he allowed only two hits, no walks, no runs and struck out eight in his final start of his first stint with Lehigh Valley.

“My wife and I got excited because we’re back home,” Buchanan said. “It’s such a cool story to go seven years, then come back to play for a team you know is going to win.

“At this point in my career, I want to win. It’s not about getting back in the big leagues or how much money I can get. I want to play with the best, for the best and have a chance to win.”

The Atlanta native and Georgia State product quickly moved through the Phillies organization. He spent his draft year in short-season Williamsport, split time in 2011 between the two A-ball stops in Clearwater and Lakewood, was in Double-A Reading in 2012, split time between Reading and Lehigh Valley in 2013, then made 20 starts in Philadelphia in 2014.

Buchanan bounced back and forth between Triple-A and the majors in 2015 before spending all of 2016 with Lehigh Valley. He was designated for assignment by the Phillies in November 2016, then released so he could pursue other avenues.

The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had a 4.07 ERA in three years with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization, then a 3.02 ERA in nearly 700 innings spanning four seasons with the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization.

Buchanan evolved as a pitcher and person.

“It was just the simplicity of knowing myself truly,” he said, “and being at peace with that. It was about being confident in that I know how I pitch, knowing what I’m good at, knowing my abilities.

“I move the ball well, both sides of the plate. I don’t throw 100 mph. I’m not going to change myself to do that. It’s about what can I do to consistently get guys out.”

Buchanan also is enjoying his time as a father to 5-year-old Bradley and 3-year-old Lily. He credits his wife, a Lehigh Valley native, with making the journey to the Far East a rewarding one as a baseball player and as a couple.

The two are in the process of building a home in the Easton area, where they have lived together the last decade.

“All the credit goes to Ashley,” Buchanan said. “She’s a freakin’ rock star. She took it on the chin for seven years and didn’t complain one time. All she cared about was that I was good. She’s so selfless. She’s amazing.

“It was tough being over there. Whether I enjoyed the experience or not, was happy or not, having her there as a support factor was the only way I made it through.”

IronPigs David Buchanan (12) on the mound as Lehigh Valley hosted the Buffalo Bisons on Thursday at Coca Cola Park in Allentown.
CHRIS SHIPLEY / THE MORNING CALL
IronPigs David Buchanan, seen here in 2016, has returned to the team after several seasons in Asia. (Chris Shipley/ 첥Ƶ)

Buchanan has no regrets about making the move halfway around the world, nor about coming back. He was seeking a guaranteed contract but jumped at the chance to be a nonroster invitee to Phillies camp.

He had a productive spring with the Phillies. His competitive edge never left. His goal is to be where he was on Oct. 4, 2015 — at Citizens Bank Park where he allowed one earned run and struck out seven in six innings against the Marlins.

“My goal is to be [in Triple-A] as short as possible,” Buchanan said. “There are a lot of good ballplayers here, so the potential is there for me to get better and be ready if that phone rings.”

Meanwhile, Buchanan is working on a new pitch, a sweeper. But he is not sweeping the approach that got him back into pro ball in the United States under the rug.

“That’s how crazy this game is,” manager Anthony Contreras said. “You can be away from it for so long, have a track record like his and still find your way back to this spot seven years later.

“I’ve joked around with him that it’s his rookie year. It’s been so long, it’s like starting over again. We’re going to lean on him and his experiences in Asia to help these young pitchers, what it looks like from a preparation standpoint. The Japanese and Korean cultures are a little bit different in how they take care of themselves, prepare for a game. It will be interesting to see how he uses that experience along with being back in states and is able to intertwine it all in order to get back to the big leagues.”

No matter what happens on Sunday or the rest of 2024 and beyond, Buchanan is comfortable with his journey around professional baseball.

“I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said. “I found myself as a pitcher, as a man, spiritually, emotionally. My wife and I started a family. It was a great learning experience for me as a pitcher, for us as husband and wife, mother and father.”

Morning 첥Ƶ reporter Tom Housenick can be reached at 610-820-6651 or at thousenick@mcall.com

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