Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy’s search for answers has led him to depths of frustration that he said he’s never reached on the mound.
Bundy allowed a pair of three-run homers, issued a season-high five walks and lasted just four innings in the Orioles’ 14-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday night at Tropicana Field.
The 25-year-old hasn’t won since July 29. Over his past six starts, he has a 10.67 ERA, allowing 10 homers over that stretch. The two homers he allowed Friday gave him 37 on the season, the most by any Orioles pitcher in a season. No other pitcher has given up more than 35.
Bundy’s struggles go deeper. Even last season, when he had a solid showing in his first year as a full-time big league starter, he had stretches when he struggled, but they never extended this long. Over his past 11 starts, he has an 8.83 ERA, and he’s allowed at least one homer in each of those starts, a streak that is one shy of the club record set by Dave Johnson in 1990.
“It takes a strong constitution and if I know Dylan, somewhere along the line somebody’s going to pay,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You look at a guy who came out of high school, a lot of people tell you might be the best high school prospect they ever saw, throwing 96-100. And he can pitch with what he’s capable of doing and we’ve seen it. He’s just got to have command of the fastball and got to have some secondary pitches, but he got in trouble with the changeup and then a center-cut fastball.”
Friday’s start might have marked one of his worst — and that says something given he allowed four homers without recording an out against the Kansas City Royals on May 8 — because he was so erratic around the plate and didn’t record a single swinging strike on his slider and his fastball was hittable as the Rays made contact on 24 of the 26 four-seamers they swung at.
“I can only imagine his frustration,” Showalter said. “It’s kind of like a power hitter, just can’t get to it or put the ball in play. We’ve all seen how good he’s capable of being. We’ve got to figure out why, because I know he’s got a level of frustration that’s tough to see.”
After Friday’s game, Bundy — who has masked his frustration throughout his slump — said it has reached a peak.
“10 out of 10,” Bundy said when asked to gauge his frustration. “Going through adversity is tough but just got to keep my head up, keep working in between starts and try to get better. I'll figure it out. ... I think in the end it will make me stronger and a better pitcher because of it. So, just got to keep working.”
After recent spotty starts, Bundy said he’s turned to studying film and making slight tweaks in his mechanics, but he conceded he’s getting flummoxed by his continued struggles.
“Getting better,” Bundy said when asked what he turns to now. “Mechanically I can’t really find anything. I’ve put a finger on it too much. I think I’ve got to get better executing pitches and throw the ball with a little bit more conviction.”
Showalter said the team has no plans to shut Bundy down for the season. He’s still 19 2/3 innings from his career-high inning total from last season. But with little to play for after falling out of the playoff race last year, the team shut Bundy down with roughly two weeks left, his last start coming Sept. 18, 2017, after he posted a 7.53 ERA over three September starts.
“Not yet, not yet,” Showalter said about the prospect of shutting Bundy down. “It’s one of those things you get your arms around and take it day to day. We’ve got some off days and we’re going to do what’s best for Dylan and the Orioles, and it’s something that you consider with everybody this time of the year in our situation.”