FORT MYERS, Fla. - Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter is always trying to surprise people. It was Dylan Bundy's turn on Tuesday.
While Showalter and pitching coach Rick Adair took a 90-minute drive from the Orioles' training complex, they hatched a plan. Instead of letting Bundy pitch against a group of minor leaguers, they'd let the prized 19-year-old rookie throw against some accomplished major leaguers.
After Dana Eveland and Chris Tillman worked the first four innings, Bundy came in for the fifth and got to face Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez. Even though he walked Pedroia, Bundy got out of the inning unscathed.
Bundy's scoreless inning was the Orioles' bright spot in their 5-4 loss to the Boston Red Sox before 9,106 at JetBlue Park.
He retired Ellsbury on a grounder to short before the four-pitch walk. Gonzalez flied to center and Luis Exposito fouled out to right. Mission accomplished.
Bundy had little notice that he was going in the game as early as he did. He thought he'd pitch the eighth or ninth.
"Every pitcher wants to face the best. That's how any pitcher gets better, facing the best. I felt that those three hitters in that lineup were pretty dang good," Bundy said.
He threw 15 pitches, all fastballs. His fastest pitch topped out at 97 mph.
Bundy said he wasn't scared.
"I wasn't nervous. I was antsy. Amped up. Facing those three guys, first game, right off the bat - that was pretty intense," he said.
Bundy, who hasn't yet pitched in a game that counts, will stick around Orioles camp for another week or so. He'll probably get sent down to the Twin Lakes minor league complex soon, but Showalter wanted to get a look at him before then.
He'll see him again on Sunday morning in a "B" game in Sarasota.
He was happy to finally face professional hitters. "Get the first one out of the way," he said.
And, he's still waiting to give up his first hit. Showalter pronounced himself satisfied.
"Another good step for him," Showalter said. "Another thing to get him exposed to before he goes down."
Bundy pitched a lot better than Dana Eveland or Chris Tillman. Both have experience as major league starters, and Eveland admitted to being too pumped up in his first appearance.
Eveland allowed a run in the first inning before settling down in the second.
"A little rusty at first. A little almost overly amped. That was the first time getting that adrenaline pumped since September," Eveland said. "It was a good feeling."
Showalter was critical of Tillman, who's facing long odds on making the team. He probably didn't help himself by allowing three runs (two earned) in the third inning.
"Tilly's capable of better than that," Showalter said. "At the major league level, we can't constantly be going through those adjustments."
DUQUETTE RETURNS: Dan Duquette was Boston's top baseball executive for nearly eight years before he was fired in the spring of 2002. It took Duquette nearly a decade until he found another job in baseball, and last November the Orioles hired him.
Duquette had a reputation for sometimes having a contentious relationship with the press in Boston, but he was genial when he addressed a group of reporters who cover the Red Sox.
When one reporter said he'd been a lightning rod during his time there he smiled and said: "Really?"
Duquette spoke for 12 minutes about the Orioles and Red Sox, and predicted the Orioles' pitching would be much improved this season.
COMING UP: The Orioles host Minnesota on Wednesday. Wei-Yin Chen, Armando Galarraga, Matt Lindstrom, Luis Ayala and Steve Johnson are scheduled for Baltimore. Carl Pavano, Alex Burnett, Luis Perdomo, Jason Bulger, Jared Burton, Esmerling Vasquez, Daryl Thompson and Casey Fien are scheduled for the Twins.