After becoming the Orioles pitching coach this offseason, Doug Brocail used video to get to know his new charges a bit better. For right-hander Dylan Bundy, Brocail noted Bundy's career-best 4.02 ERA in 2016, and began watching his work that season, both as a reliever and then as a starter.
“I don't know if it was smart on my part, or stupid, because that's the first video I watched of Dylan," Brocail said. “That's what I expected to see. You don't see it, and you go, ‘OK, here's what we have to do: we have to get Dylan Bundy as close to that as we can.’ ”
There's no easier way to boil down the 2019 goals for the Orioles’ 2011 first-round draft pick who once tantalized with electric stuff, missed most of three years with injuries and has shown only flashes of being that kind of pitcher ever since. In every sense, from the velocity he carried three years ago to the pitch mix and posture — and everything that contributes to those things — the Orioles want him to recapture what he first brought to the organization.
For both Brocail and Bundy, the guy they want him to be is only a click or two on the video screen away.
"I go back and look at it also," said Bundy, 26. "The biggest thing — the velo is the obvious thing, it's a little bit down from those years when I was out of the bullpen, and even the first couple of starts I had in '16. We look a lot at the changeup, and the consistent movement we had on it. I'm just trying to get back on that main pitch, the changeup, trying to figure out things to make that pitch more available to me consistently."
Pitch mix is one area Bundy has stressed all spring entering his 2019 debut, Sunday at the New York Yankees. All spring, he spoke of wanting to throw his curveball and changeup more to right-handers, as he'd spent the past two years since re-incorporating his slider, using it as his go-to secondary pitch against right-handed hitters.
"When I started throwing the slider, I started throwing it a lot," Bundy said with a laugh.
After not throwing the pitch at all in 2016, he threw it 33.7 percent of the time to righties in 2017 and watched that climb to 39.5 percent last year. He also used the slider as a chase pitch to left-handed hitters, but hopes the changeup can combat them, too.
"I'd say I got slider-happy there, especially in ’18, but now it's time to work and get the changeup back," Bundy said.
That pitch might be what Bundy likes to look at from his old video, but the baseline factor in whether any of his four pitches bite, or whether they're elevated, is in the delivery. Even a layman can see the difference when Bundy is able to get through his delivery and when he appears more upright. The days where he’s upright and kind of stiff help explain his major league-high 41 home runs allowed last season, and his 5.45 ERA in 31 starts.
"Those days that are good days, I feel like just everything is moving — the shoulders, the hips, the lower body," Bundy said. "Everything's moving together better on those good days. On the not-so-good days, something is out of sync and you've got to figure out what it is that day. It's never the same thing. It can be a different thing every time."
To get him more consistently in those good habits, Brocail said the Orioles have tried several things: "Change his posture a little bit, get him back into that stronger posture, let's utilize the legs a little bit.”
"He offers a bunch of different little suggestions here and there, and if you try it and it doesn't work out all, he'll tell you to never do that again," Bundy said. "It's just throwing things out there that will stick, and the way he phrases certain things might be different than how he phrases them to a different guy. It's just whatever clicks in your head and makes sense to you."
Brocail knows the process of getting Bundy back to where he was might go slowly. Brocail said his mechanics "getting a little bit better, and a little bit better" will have things "right where we want to be" by the end of the season.
Bundy's baseline for success has always been to make 30 starts and finish the season healthy, and he acknowledged that's pretty much the only way last year could qualify as a success.
"There were successful parts of the season, personally, but definitely not a successful year," Bundy said. "I was happy that I got to reach a few of the goals I wanted, which was 30-plus starts and finishing the year healthy. But those are about the only two things you can look back on. There's a lot of room for improvement. Every single pitcher will say that. There's always room for improvement and you can always work on something every single day. You're never done working on becoming a better pitcher."