Orioles name Dylan Bundy their Opening Day starter

On the eve of his final Grapefruit League start of the spring, right-hander Dylan Bundy was named the Orioles’ 2018 Opening Day starting pitcher.

Bundy, the 2011 first-round draft pick who overcame years of injuries to become the team’s most consistent starter last season, will start the regular-season opener against the Minnesota Twins on March 29 at Camden Yards.

Before Thursday’s Grapefruit League game against the Boston Red Sox, Orioles manager Buck Showalter gathered his starting pitchers and told them how they would line up to begin the season.

“I found out this morning,” Bundy said Thursday. “Buck brought us in the office and kind of explained how things were going to work. Obviously, I'm honored and humbled by it, and very excited. I'm going to have to control the emotions a little bit and just pitch my game.”

The assignment is a significant accolade for Bundy, who just two springs ago was forced onto the Opening Day major league roster because his minor league options had been exhausted. Last season was Bundy’s first as a full-time starter, and he went 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA in 28 starts. Almost more important than those numbers were the 169 2/3 innings he pitched, 60 more than his previous season.

Bundy, 25, is now well beyond the workload parameters placed on him after Tommy John surgery in 2013, and it finally appears clear that all restrictions are off.

“I wasn't even expecting it or thinking it really,” Bundy said of the Opening Day assignment. “I was just trying to get through spring training and do the stuff I need to work on and let things play out, however they may be. I wasn't expecting it. I'm definitely humbled by it.”

Bundy and Kevin Gausman entered spring training as the only starting pitchers slotted into the rotation — a unit that finished with the worst ERA in baseball last year. But during spring training, the Orioles added a trio of veterans, signing right-hander Andrew Cashner, re-signing right-hander Chris Tillman and this week reaching a four-year deal with right-hander Alex Cobb.

“Seeing what the front office is doing and signing guys who are going to help us in the AL East,” Bundy said, “I think everybody in the rotation is excited and ready to get this season started.”

While Bundy might not be the most experienced pitcher on the staff, and he’d defer to all three of the veterans, he was given the Opening Day assignment in part because of his 2017 season.

Bundy is the fourth member of the rotation to be an Opening Day starter. Gausman started last year’s opener, Tillman started the previous three and Andrew Cashner was an Opening Day starter in 2014 with the San Diego Padres. Bundy said Gausman and Tillman have offered advice on handling starting the season opener.

“Control the emotions a little bit, and obviously. I'll lean on them for any advice or any expectations I might have going into the game since they have done it before,” Bundy said. “They're good guys to have giving me advice for that.”

This spring, Bundy has struggled, allowing five runs in three of his four Grapefruit League starts entering his final spring outing Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He has a 9.00 ERA, allowing 23 hits over 15 innings. Bundy had success last year after posting a 7.41 spring ERA.

“I don't think it changes one thing at all,” Bundy said when asked whether it alters his preparation for his final spring start. “You're going to go out here and you're going to work on your pitches and you're going to try to get major league hitters out. That's what I'm going to do tomorrow, go out there and pitch however many innings I need to throw and get outs.

“I've gotten my pitch count up to 94, 95. The pitch count is there, and I'm ready to start the season, of course. I'm happy with, like I said earlier, the shape of my pitches this spring. I've just got to keep working on command, which is something we work on every day for however long we play this game — commanding the baseball. You've just got to hit your spots and trust in the stuff.”

eencina@baltsun.com

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