FREDERICK – Dylan Bundy’s professional pitching life will forever need the label “post-Tommy John surgery” attached to it, and the Baltimore Orioles prospect has had to re-invent his approach.
Every outing is a step toward making a return to the majors, and Tuesday was Bundy’s first home start for Class-A Frederick.
The 21-year-old right-hander threw 73 pitches in the Keys’ 7-3, rain-shortened win over Carolina at Harry Grove Stadium. He didn’t get a victory, but personal wins aren’t Bundy’s main concern these days.
He pitched well July 22 at Myrtle Beach, tossing six scoreless innings and picking up his first win since Aug. 28, 2012 — a “post-surgery” win — but struggled seven days later at Winston-Salem (five hits and five walks in 4 1-3 innings).
Tuesday’s start certainly seemed like progress — Bundy struck out seven and walked none in 4 1-3 innings, and threw 70 percent of his pitches for strikes (he’s on a 75-pitch limit this season).
“I didn’t get to go five innings, or anymore, because of pitch count, but I felt probably the best I’ve felt this whole time in Frederick,” Bundy said. “So that’s always a good thing. Not sore after, healthy after. So that’s always a positive.”
Harry Grove’s radar gun clocked Bundy’s best fastball at 89 mph, but team officials in the press box said the gun is a few ticks slow from time to time (some of Bundy’s throws didn’t register on the scoreboard readout).
Bundy was the minor leagues’ 15th-best prospect entering 2014, according to Baseball America, and ESPN’s Keith Law had him 12th in his midseason rankings. And that’s coming off major elbow surgery nearly 14 months ago.
Bundy reached 45 pitches after three innings, and 33 of them were strikes. He threw first-strike pitches to seven of the first nine Carolina batters, and struck out the side in the second inning.
His biggest battle came in the third inning. After giving up a one-out double, Bundy and Mudcats lead-off batter Yhoxian Medina waged a 14-pitch war that saw Medina foul off nine balls in the process.
Bundy ended it with an 86-mph high fastball that Medina couldn’t reach, good for Bundy’s fourth strikeout.
He struck out the side in the fourth, but left in the fifth after giving up back-to-back hits to open the inning. Keys manager Luis Pujols took the ball from Bundy, who walked slowly toward the dugout to a solid ovation from the Frederick crowd.
“Normally I like to go in throwing fastball, changeup, until the second or third time through the order,” Bundy said. “If you can do that, that’s always a plus. But in High-A they like to swing early, so I decided to use my curveball earlier in the game this time than I have in the past. I think it helped tonight.
The Orioles selected Bundy with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft and he reached Baltimore in 2012, pitching 1 2-3 relief innings in two appearances. Bundy went 6-2 with a 2.84 ERA in 12 games with Frederick that year before joining the Orioles, and he earned the organization’s minor league pitcher of the year award.
Baltimore reportedly hasn’t ruled out the possibility of Bundy helping the big-league club toward the end of the season, but for now he’s just working on turning in consistent outings during the rehab process.
“Each time you go out there, you learn something new, and you always take away a positive from the outing instead of taking away all the negatives,” Bundy said. “So I’m learning each outing and getting there, hopefully getting better each outing. That’s the goal.”
Reach staff writer Pat Stoetzer at 410-857-7894 or firstname.lastname@example.org.