Dylan Bundy entered the Orioles system as the fourth overall pick in 2011 with a mid-90s fastball and a knee-buckling curveball, to say nothing of his vaunted cut fastball. But it’s the changeup that he developed once he joined the organization that has distinguished him so far in his first full major league season.
Bundy’s second strikeout Thursday against the Seattle Mariners came on an 89-mph changeup to left fielder Seth Smith, a pitch that the 19-year-old version of him who first had to begin using it likely could never have envisioned. He bucked the notion of having to learn the pitch at all back then.
“The organization wanted me to throw it in Low-A when I didn’t need to,” Bundy said. “It was just for development purposes, and I get that now. But of course, I didn’t like throwing it, because they could hit it.
“But up here, at this level, obviously you need it. It’s one of the best pitches in the game, if not the best. So being able to throw a changeup for strikes is huge, and also getting swing-and-misses on it.”
Entering Thursday’s 5-3 loss to the Mariners, Bundy had thrown 96 changeups out of 585 total pitches, with six strikeouts coming on the pitch along with six hits. Opponents fanned on nearly a quarter of them (23.96 percent), his best rate on any of his pitches. (All stats according to Brooks Baseball).
In his 2 2/3 innings of two-hit relief Thursday, Bundy threw five changeups out of his 36 pitches. Two produced swinging strikes, two more produced ground balls that resulted in outs, and one was a ball. All were to left-handed hitters.
“It’s definitely good for left-handed hitters,” Bundy said. “For me, being a right-handed pitcher, the ball goes away from a lefty and also has four-seam spin like my fastball. That’s why I think it’s had some success lately.”
He decided back in 2012 in Class-A to use a modified splitter grip, which he says isn’t as wide as a split grip such as the one Kevin Gausman uses, but works well for him.
“It’s not really a splitter,” Bundy said. “People can call it what they want, but it’s just my changeup. I’ve always thrown it like that. Maybe that angle might have caught it looking more like a splitter, but it’s the same one I’ve thrown for the last three or four years now. … It’s just kind of the way I decided to throw it when I was in Delmarva and Frederick. I stuck with it ever since, and it’s gotten better, I think.”
The changeup, combined with a 95-97 mph fastball and his curveball, have helped Bundy to a stretch of 12 innings over five appearances without an earned run. He has struck out 12 with just two walks (one intentional) in that span, lowering his ERA to 3.28.