Two weeks ago, near the beginning of what has proven to be a tough stretch of outings, Orioles reliever Dylan Bundy said that he felt like his stuff was improving as his results were going the other direction. That has largely been true, with his fastball creeping into the mid 90s and his average velocity increasing as the year goes on.
Even so, after Bundy allowed a pair of runs on five hits in 2 2/3 innings of relief to jump his ERA to 4.94 on the season, manager Buck Showalter noted that Bundy isn't exactly coming to the mound at the highest level with all his weapons at his disposal.
At the center of it all is the cut fastball, a pitch that Bundy leaned on as an amateur when the Orioles selected him fourth overall in 2011, and subsequently removed from his arsenal to help bring along his other secondary pitches.
Bundy's career stalled with Tommy John elbow reconstruction and shoulder issues limiting him over the past three seasons. He returned briefly in the Arizona Fall League last year, but was shut down with more arm soreness. Showalter said that has played a factor in Bundy, who had two major league appearances entering this season and hadn't pitched above Double-A in the minors, working in the majors with the offerings he has been.
"If you go through the whole evolution, background, he went to Fall League and the slider/cutter seemed to be the reason we thought that his elbow was [sore]," Showalter said. "Remember we had to slow him down one time? We thought the cutter/slider was slowing him down a little bit.
"So he's pitching this year without that, and that's a big pitch for him. And that's something that he'll probably have next year. And if we get to a point this year we think physically he's in good shape, we might let him do it this year. So now it's fastball-curveball-changeup."
Save for Saturday, when two of the hits he allowed came on curveballs, Bundy has been hurt mostly on his fastball this season. Entering Saturday's outing, opponents were 22-for-51 on Bundy's fastballs (.431), according to Brooks Baseball's PitchFX data. Opponents were batting .250 on his changeup and .214 on his curveball.
Showalter mentioning that they let him throw the pitch last season indicates the widely held belief that the organization looks at them unfavorably might be overblown, and he believes Bundy will benefit from getting it back when the time comes.
"That was a big weapon for him," Bundy said. "People get quick to [judge]. I think when this year's over, we get his 60, 70 innings, next spring, take the governors off of him and maybe give that back to him, you be real cautious about …
"Keep in mind where he is experience wise and what's going on with him, physically. I'm trying to help him develop and also keep him healthy. I think there's a chance that next year and hopefully at some point this year we're going to get a good return for it."
Otherwise, Showalter has no complaints about what Bundy has done this year.
"It's tough," Showalter said. "This is a guy who hasn't really pitched out of Double-A and in the American League East, you're going to pitch, whether you're a Rule 5 or whether you're in Dylan's situation. He's going to learn from it. He's going to be good. We're going to get him some innings. He's trying to develop as a young pitcher and also trying to stay healthy."