Dylan Bundy isn’t the only rookie pitcher to start fast for the Orioles over the last 15 years.
Check out what Josh Towers did in his first handful of major league starts in 2001.
Brad Bergesen was Baltimore’s best starter in 2009.
Even Mike Wright tossed 14 1/3 scoreless innings in his first two major league starts last year.
But this time, it looks and feels different. We long heard the hype surrounding the 2011 first-round pick and waited five years to see the young right-hander finally have the chance to perform on this stage — not counting his cup of coffee as a 19-year-old in 2012 — after three years’ worth of health problems.
After taking no-hitters into the sixth inning in back-to-back outings, Bundy is rapidly turning his starts into appointment viewing for fans while giving the Orioles a fantastic chance to win when he pitches. Asked whether he was disappointed or relieved — knowing Bundy’s pitch count wouldn’t reasonably allow him to go the distance — to see Elvis Andrus single to break up the no-hit bid in the sixth, Buck Showalter chuckled as he quipped that he’d never tell. The manager then admitted the seventh inning still would have been Bundy’s last regardless of whether a no-hitter was intact or not.
You can’t help but wonder if a similar question extends to the terrific way Bundy has pitched as he moves closer to a presumed innings limit that no one in the organization wants to discuss in any detail. How could the Orioles possibly take him out of play while fighting for the American League East title? But how can they responsibly allow Bundy to pitch into September and potentially October after he threw a combined 65 1/3 innings the previous three seasons?
Any decision to shut him down would sure be easier if his results were underwhelming, but the Orioles are obviously thrilled with the immediate return in helping a poor rotation.
Bundy has been brilliant since the end of May when the Orioles began giving him at least three days’ rest between relief appearances. In his last 40 innings dating back to May 31, the 23-year-old has posted a 2.25 ERA with 34 hits allowed, 47 strikeouts, six home runs surrendered, and only nine walks.
He was unaware that Tuesday marked the longest outing of his professional career, surpassing the 6 2/3 innings he threw for Single-A Frederick at Lynchburg on Aug. 1, 2012. His game score of 81 matched Tyler Wilson’s eight shutout innings at Boston on June 16 as the highest of the season by an Orioles starter.
Any pitcher can have a good start, but Bundy’s command is impeccable as he consistently hits the catcher’s glove within the strike zone. It’s all impressive, the mid-90s fastball, the slow curve, the terrific changeup that he didn’t begin throwing until four years ago. Of his 88 pitches on Tuesday, 60 were strikes and he walked just one batter while striking out seven.
As we’ve now seen for a couple months, Bundy appears to have the rare ability to make an incredibly difficult task look relatively easy. Of course, we know it won’t always be as easy as he’s made it look.
He’s only had four major league starts, but there’s a growing buzz inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards whenever he pitches. You just pray that he stays healthy and that the Orioles don’t completely lose sight of what’s best for him while focusing on the present pennant race.
There can be a today as long as the Orioles remember there is a tomorrow with Bundy and do whatever they can to help him continue on with good health.
The organization has long felt that he has the ability to be the true ace its lacked since the days of Mike Mussina. Bundy still has a long way to go, but seven innings of one-hit ball against an imposing lineup was another flash of that talent as more and more fans are anticipating what will happen with each start.
After his potential felt much more like a ghost over the last couple years, Bundy is here in the flesh and turning heads.
Teammate Darren O’Day might have said it best in summarizing Bundy’s growth from the beginning of the season until now.
“We enjoyed the time we had with him in the bullpen, but I think he’s moved on to better things.”
The Orioles have a good problem on their hands.
And fans can’t wait to see what happens next.