It has been eight months since Orioles pitching prospect Dylan Bundy underwent Tommy John elbow surgery -- and it probably felt twice that long for a young pitcher who had just arrived at the threshold of a major league career -- but he is beginning to see the finish line.
"The first month was hard, seeing everybody playing and I'm in a sling,'' he said. "Coming to the field and stretching and doing some exercises, and I'm done for the day. It makes for long days when you can't do what you're supposed to do and what you love. The first month was probably the hardest, and then after that, I was able to get outside and see the sun for awhile. It felt great to realize I'm that much closer to throwing, and now I'm that much closer to throwing in the bullpen, and I'm looking forward to that."
Bundy's rehab program has progressed steadily to the point that he's throwing from 120 feet without discomfort and will move up to 150 feet in the next few days. According to Orioles manager Buck Showalter, it won't be long before the club will have to start holding him back for his own protection.
"By the time this [spring] is over, we're going to have to be pulling the reigns back on him, I bet,'' Showalter said Friday. "He's doing well. Knock on wood. My biggest hope ... one of my biggest hopes ... is not to have any setbacks with him. I haven't seen anything to think that would happen. He looks good."
Bundy is projected to be ready in June or July, and by ready the club apparently hopes he'll be stretched out in the minor leagues and be available to pitch in the major league rotation at that time, if needed.
"When they say June or July, that's pitching five, six, seven, eight innings in the minor leagues," Showalter said, "so there is a lot of stuff that he's going to be doing to get to that point. This is when they're saying this is when he'll be an option for us. It's not when he's pitching in Frederick on rehab. That's my understanding. To me, that probably means he's pitching competitively in May."
Bundy can't wait, but he's going to have to. The club is going to be very careful with him as he gets closer to a full return to action, and even he doesn't know exactly how it will all play out.
"They've hinted around about some things,'' he said. "Obviously, I'm going to come back as a starter, so I'll have to work up to five innings. I don't know if they're going to keep me at five or more, I don't know. I really don't have a clue.
"The biggest thing now is throwing. That's the main focus right now. Obviously, throwing and making sure there's no pain and getting my strength back as far as elbow and shoulder and conditioning a lot."