In his first full season as a starter, Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy spent the month of April carving through unsuspecting lineups with a slider he banned himself from throwing in 2016 but knew he needed to get back in his arsenal this season.
As the season progressed, however, he's found his feel for the pitch yet again, featuring it as heavily since the All-Star break as he has in months, and finding plenty of success with it.
"I would say it's gotten back to the consistent movement of it — not so sweepy, and I'm not pulling it as much right now," Bundy said. "I'm just trying to concentrate on keeping it down and staying on top but behind it, if that makes sense, and throwing it with some downhill angle to it."
Since the break, he's thrown the pitch 24.2 percent of the time, according to Brooks Baseball. That's near the 25.8 percent rate he used it in April. In between, he simply got away from the pitch, throwing it just 16 percent of the time. Bundy said plenty went into that, and with bringing it back so prominently.
"I think at different points in the year, you start favoring different pitches and pitches start working in your favor at different times of the year, because the weather changes, too," Bundy said. "That's a big factor. And it depends on the teams you're facing, too, your attack plan and your game plan with your catcher depends on the teams, too, that you're going to use. What pitch are you going to use? Slider over curve? Curveball over a changeup? Two-seamer, stuff like that. It's about the team you're playing more than anything."
He credits the constant tinkering pitchers do in between their starts with bringing it back.
"That's in the bullpen," Bundy said. "We talk in the dugout, we talk in the bullpen, we talk during the stretch. We're always talking about pitching and stuff like that. You bring up mechanics, you bring up pitch grips, you bring up the way you're throwing stuff. Everything is changing all year, so you've got to find what works and hang onto it as long as you can."
The results on the pitch have been strong, which bodes well preparing for an Oakland Athletics lineup with so many right-handed hitters.
Eleven of his 23 strikeouts since the break have been on sliders, and opponents have just a .174 average on it, according to Brooks Baseball. On the season, they're hitting .178 on the pitch, with 44 of his 107 strikeouts on sliders.
With his slider returning to prominence in his past four starts, Bundy has three quality starts and one struggle on his account, combining for a 3.44 ERA that has lowered his season mark to 4.15.