When former first-round draft pick Dylan Bundy underwent Tommy John surgery on June 27, 2013, he set a goal to return to live-game pitching exactly one year later. The hard-throwing, 21-year-old righty is expected to beat that date by nearly two weeks, as he is set to start for the Aberdeen IronBirds on Sunday in their third game of the 2014 season, a road game with the Hudson Valley Renegades.
"I'm just excited to get out there again, to toe the mound and throw in a real game," Bundy said during a press conference at Ripken Stadium Thursday morning. "I would have been happy [returning] on the 27th, but I'm coming back two weeks earlier than I'd planned."
Bundy, selected by Baltimore out of Tulsa, Okla.'s Owasso High School as the fourth overall pick of the 2011 MLB draft, made it all the way to the Orioles' pitching staff for a two-game stint in 2012, his first professional season. After he pitched in the Orioles' spring training camp in 2013, it was announced he would undergo surgery to repair an injured right elbow, which would put him out of commission for the next year. Bundy began throwing again in extended spring training this year, and it was announced earlier this week at the IronBirds' media day that he would serve his rehab stint with the Aberdeen club. According to IronBirds Manager Matt Merullo, who was at Thursday's press conference, Bundy is slated to start Sunday against Hudson Valley, and would make his second start the following Saturday, June 21 at Aberdeen's 7 p.m. home game with the Brooklyn Cyclones.
"For the first game back, I'm set for five innings, or 75 pitches," Bundy said. "They've told me I'm getting three or four starts [with Aberdeen]. It'll be great to get back out and face real hitters. I'm excited to play night games again, too. You spend all of spring training playing day games."
Bundy explained that while his high-90s fastball has not yet returned, he's confident of getting back to his pre-injury form.
"I started off a little shaky in spring training, but I've felt very good lately," Bundy said. "As long as my arm feels good, and I'm locating my pitches, the velocity will take care of itself. My fastball command has been better than before the injury, and I feel like my secondary pitches are better than they were at the end of year in 2012. I definitely feel like I can get back there, that I can be better than when I started out."
Merullo said that his team's playing philosophy will serve Bundy well during his rehab stint.
"The way we play here, it's one pitch at a time, just trying to get the guy in the box out," Merullo said. "If you play that way, then you aren't getting wrapped up in your own head too much, or worrying about your arm. I know Dylan just wants to get out there and compete again. We're all professional competitors here, and at a certain point you just want to get off the leash, to go out and play."