ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- One of the Orioles’ biggest questions entering the second half has been whether right-hander Dylan Bundy would eventually enter the team’s floundering starting rotation.
And now the 23-year-old Bundy will make his first major league start on Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Bundy has worked exceptionally well in relief this season after various injuries – none more serious than the Tommy John surgery he had three years ago -- limited him to just 17 minor league games since the beginning of the 2013 season.
The Orioles have been cautious with Bundy, who despite the injuries remains one of the Orioles' most valuable young arms, emphasizing that this year’s focus was for Bundy to build his innings count in relief and above all remain healthy.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said during spring training that he believed Bundy could start in the second half of this season, but later retreated from that comment, saying that throwing 70 to 80 relief innings this season – and a possible winter ball stint – would likely set him up to compete for a rotation spot next spring.
Because Bundy entered this season out of minor league options, he had to build innings out of the major league bullpen.
Bundy is 2-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 38 relief innings this season, and he pitched well after Showalter began using Bundy every fifth or sixth day as a multiple-inning reliever. He has not allowed an earned run over his past six appearances spanning 14 1/3 innings – allowing just 11 hits and striking out 19 -- and is holding opposing hitters to a .212 batting average over that span.
Working on that pace appealed to Bundy’s starting pitcher past. When pitching after four or more days rest, Bundy has posted a 1.04 ERA.
In his last outing on July 6 at Dodger Stadium, Bundy recorded all seven outs by strikeout in a 2 1/3-inning scoreless outing in an eventual 14-inning win over the Dodgers.
However, the Orioles aren’t likely to allow Bundy – the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft -- to go very deep in Sunday’s game. He hasn’t pitched more than three innings or thrown more than 58 pitches in any of his outings this season.