To Orioles rookie right-hander Dylan Bundy, Sunday was going to be a "sad day, no matter what happened," in his final regular-season home start of 2016.
The tragic loss of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez, who died Sunday in an overnight boating accident on a jetty off Miami Beach, hit every major league clubhouse hard in one way or another.
Six years ago, Bundy and Fernandez were peers in the Aflac All-American Baseball Classic in San Diego, and two summers later, they were on parallel fast tracks through the Single-A South Atlantic League.
Before Bundy took the mound Sunday, those few memories came back in a big way as he and his teammates stood silent watching the various news conferences.
"I hit off of him [in San Diego], and I was able to chat with him my first year in pro ball when he was with Greensboro in Low-A," Bundy said. "He was dealing, and I was able to chat with him a little bit. Basically, we just lost a great guy as a person. Everybody knows how good he was on the field, but he was a better person.
"It was in the back of your head — we had almost our whole team watching the press conference. It hits us all, even if you didn't know him. You saw the way he was on the field. Like everybody said, he made the game seem fun."
Bundy had just pitched in a tournament before that All-American game in 2010, and was held off the mound in the showcase game, but asked for a chance to hit and lined out off Fernandez.
When they connected again in 2012, Bundy was in the process of not allowing an earned run in 30 innings for Class-A Delmarva in the South Atlantic League. Fernandez was just as good, striking out 99 batters in 79 innings with a 1.49 ERA for Greensboro that year.
All those thoughts came running back Sunday morning, but once the game began, Bundy was able to pitch another fine outing at Camden Yards, where he's seemingly been at his best this season.
With five innings of three-hit, one-run ball against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bundy earned a win to improve to 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA in a rookie season that began with him in the bullpen and will end with him as an important part of the rotation.
"Definitely didn't expect it," Bundy said. "I was expecting to throw 70 innings out of the 'pen. I'll take it. I'm not going to complain about it or anything, but were just trying to get team wins right now. That's all that matters right now."
Manager Buck Showalter said Bundy's win count wasn't something anyone had envisioned before the season began, either.
When it comes to pitchers attacking hitters, there are few secrets. Hitters have seen the Orioles' arms several times by now, and the emphasis on advance scouting leaves no stone unturned. The Orioles will go into their final week aware that the division rivals they're facing — the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Yankees — will try to know them better than they do.
"The team allowed him to win 10 games, and the doctors allowed him to win 10, and most of all, he did," Showalter said. "But where we hoped he'd end up this year, five would have not surprised me, but 10 would have been a little bit of a stretch."