The Orioles have laid out a path through mid-September to give Dylan Bundy additional rest, one that focuses around using off days to keep the team's 24-year-old right-hander around the 180-inning threshold for the season.
And while pitching on eight days rest – thanks to last Thursday's off day – Bundy recorded the deepest, and maybe his strongest start, of his young career in the Orioles' 7-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night at Camden Yards.
Bundy allowed just one unearned run on three hits, recording five strikeouts and walking just one. He retired the final 13 batters he faced and walked off the mound after the eighth inning to a standing ovation having thrown just 93 pitches.
"Dylan was outstanding," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That was fun to watch. He had everything working. Keep in mind he had eight days off, too. That was a real testament to he and [pitching coach] Roger [McDowell] and the work they put in in between. This time of year, anytime you get a little extra rest [it helps]. …. He was strong. He was carrying a little more fastball. I was really surprised at the command he carried."
Bundy has definitely benefited from the extra rest. In four starts in which he received six or more days of rest this season, he has a 2.52 ERA. In 17 starts on four or five days rest, Bundy has a 4.66 ERA.
"I don't think anyone is ever going to know if it benefits you or not," Bundy said. "Sometimes it doesn't benefit you and you're out there a little wild, a little rusty. But tonight I think it definitely worked in my favor and I felt great out there."
Bundy's first start coming out of the break came on 11 days rest, and he threw six innings of one-run ball against the Texas Rangers. He struggled in his next outing on regular rest, allowing a career-high seven runs over 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Houston Astros, then rebounded on Tuesday after receiving extra rest again.
"Yeah, it means I need to get better in a five-man rotation, I guess, because that's how we pitch, with four days rest on the fifth day," Bundy said. "It was a good game. We hit the ball and the defense played great behind me today. It was a good game."
On Tuesday, Bundy worked ahead of hitters, throwing 18 of 28 first-pitch strikes, keeping his fastball around the zone and utilizing his slider in the zone and as a chase pitch.
"Just execution of pitches low in the zone and having a game plan with [catcher Welington Castillo] back there and sticking to it," Bundy said. "And then after we got that lead later in the game I was just trying to attack hitters early and work ahead."
Bundy's slider was especially effective. He threw it 24 times and induced six swing and misses, including three for strikeouts.
"It was just working a little bit better tonight," Bundy said. "Usually, I don't get it in on lefties as much. I make it more of a cutter when I go in to lefties with it. We were able to throw it some to lefties tonight."
Bundy said he thought he could have gone out for the ninth – right-hander Brad Brach pitched the final inning – but knew there was a reason behind it.
"Yea, but I understood," Bundy said. "It was the first time I finished the eighth in the big leagues. We've got a game plan on the innings this year, and we're going to kind of watch it. We'll see."
"It's a challenge, managing it," Showalter said. "But we are in good shape with him inning-wise. In fact, we are a little ahead where we wanted to be."
The addition of right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who makes his Orioles debut in Wednesday’s series finale against the Royals, gives the Orioles six starters and could allow the Orioles to slot in more off days for Bundy beyond the ones mapped out for him through mid-September. After Tuesday’s start, Bundy has a total of 127 1/3 innings this season.
“We had it set up whether we had five or six starters,” Showalter said. “There’s a lot of imagination. You could float the starters in and out. I’ll tell you, there’s nothing wrong August and September having some pitchers with extra rest. The good lord didn’t intend for you to put your arm over your head and jerk it down violently five times every fifth day for eight months. And anytime you can get a little rest here and there, you’re in good shape.”