Orioles rookie right-hander Dylan Bundy takes the mound Sunday a week away from completing his first full regular season in the major leagues, one that despite his evolving role has always had the goal of being a healthy one above all else.
To that end, Bundy, on his own free will, decided that the cut fastball he'd been throwing for most of his life was causing some of the elbow, forearm and shoulder problems that limited him over the past three years, and took it out of his arsenal.
He has a 9-6 record and a 4.13 ERA on the season, and a 4.73 ERA since joining the rotation at the All-Star break. But he has often thought about what his arsenal — and his season — would look like if he had his effective cutter back.
"Absolutely, yeah, it does need to be [one of my offerings]," Bundy said. "But I think my health and getting a full year up here, and the amount of stress this first year is, getting that out of the way before adding that pitch. Really, I could get away without it if I was able to throw a little better two-seamer, I wouldn't need that cutter/slider thing. But I definitely need it. I'd just rather get a full year healthy than risk it right now."
Currently, Bundy is working with a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a curveball. All of them have four-seam spin, and he does an adequate job replicating his arm speed on the secondary pitches to keep hitters deceived. But the 23-year-old was at his best in the minors with the cutter coming in a few miles per hour slower than his fastball and disrupting hitters' timing.
With his current repertoire, a fastball with different spin than his four-seamer would make his above-average four-seam fastball play up even more.
A sinking two-seam fastball would go a long way toward making the cutter obsolete, but Bundy says he has yet to find one that works. As such, he really only throws it in 2-0 or 3-0 counts because he knows it'll be in the zone, if not entirely effective.
"I've been experimenting with a two-seamer for 23 years," he said with a smile. "I just don't know if it's the arm slot or the way I finish or what, it just doesn't get a consistent movement on it. So when I throw it, it's just to get a different spin for them to look at. Sometimes it moves, sometimes it doesn't."
In an ideal world, he'd be able to complement his current arsenal with a two-seam fastball and a cutter.
"That'd make it a lot easier, wouldn't it?" he said. "I like the four-seam look I've got going, the four-seam change, the four-seam curveball, fastball, and then the cutter/slider thing has similar four-seam spin to it."
If he ultimately decides to add the cutter back this offseason, he'll do it slowly.
"You never know," he said. "That's what kind of my plan was, to maybe start throwing it in the offseason a little bit -- December, January, some time between there I might start playing around with it and starting playing catch with it, but not throw on the mound with it until spring. That was kind of my plan."