A move anticipated for much of the spring became official Thursday as the Orioles announced right-hander Dylan Bundy would be the Opening Day starter against Minnesota on March 29.
It’s a role that’s been envisioned from the time Bundy was selected out of high school with the fourth overall pick of the 2011 draft, but injuries threatened to derail a promising career before he finally established himself as a major league pitcher in 2016. Had the just-signed Alex Cobb arrived in camp several weeks ago, he might have received the honor because of his accomplishments with Tampa Bay, but it will instead be Bundy’s task while the veteran newcomer will build up some innings in the minors.
Bundy, 25, is entering his second full season as a starter after winning 13 games and posting a solid 4.24 ERA in 169 2/3 innings in 2017. His 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings dipped slightly from his rookie year when he pitched the first half of the season out of the bullpen, but Bundy struck out an impressive 9.9 batters per nine frames after last July’s All-Star break. He finished third on the club in wins above replacement (2.7) and first among Baltimore pitchers, according to Baseball Reference.
After posting an impressive 2.93 ERA over the first two months of last season, Bundy struggled in June and July before rebounding in August as the club went through the efforts of giving him extra rest in the second half. He pitched a one-hit shutout while striking out 12 against Seattle on Aug. 29, one of the more impressive pitching performances in club history.
It’s been a poor statistical spring for Bundy, who’s posted a 9.00 ERA in 15 Grapefruit League innings. However, manager Buck Showalter is trusting an already-solid track record built over the last two years, an impressive feat since the talented pitcher had missed most of his final three minor-league seasons with elbow and shoulder injuries.
Kevin Gausman started the 2017 opener while Chris Tillman took the ball in three consecutive Opening Days prior to that.