If you want to get the unassuming Dylan Bundy to look at you cross-eyed, ask him whether fatigue or adjustments by the opposition – the Boston Red Sox twice and the Tampa Bay Rays once – have led to him allowing 13 earned runs in his last 14 innings.
With a cocked head and a slight smile, Bundy quickly replies:
“I’m thinking I’ve faced the best lineup in baseball two starts in a row, first of all. I mean, dang,” Bundy says, flashing a smile. “That’s probably a big part of it. But, no, I don’t feel fatigued out there.
“I still feel like I’ve got good life on my heater and people are saying I do. I’ve still got good movement. My changeup and curveball are good. I didn’t have a feel for the curveball in Boston, but that’s why 30-some starts make a year, and you can’t be good in all of them.”
It’s really hard not to like this guy. He has no fear. Yet the 23-year-old isn’t full of false bravado, either. He gets how tough this league is. He understands how difficult his situation is. And he knows that some, including me, have speculated that maybe he’ll get shutdown or be taken out of the rotation before the season ends to preserve his health.
He has no interest in that concept. Put the bubble wrap away.
Heading into this afternoon’s start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Bundy (9-6, 4.13 ERA) has thrown 104 2/3 innings this year in 35 games (13 starts) for the Orioles.
His career high in innings pitched was set in his first pro year, 2012, when he logged 105 1/3 – or two outs more than this year. From 2013 to 2015, when Bundy was beset with injuries including right elbow (Tommy John) surgery, he threw just 63 1/3.
So he is about to be in unchartered territory here. That’s why the Orioles began him in the bullpen, and initially were limiting him to 70 innings pitched in 2016. But a combination of his effectiveness and the rotation’s struggles, opened the door for Bundy to get some starts.
And now Bundy has blown that door – and that expected innings count – to smithereens.
“That was the plan and then they changed the plan. I don’t know how that works,” he said. “But yeah, I’m at what 104 (innings)? That’s great. I’m happy with it. As long as my arm keeps feeling good, then I get two months of rest in the offseason and then get after it again.”
That’s his mentality. That, and his blessed right arm, is why the Orioles selected him fourth overall in 2011. He’s here to pitch and he wants to be a part of this pennant race. He’s healthy, and if his arm seems a little tired, well, so is most everyone’s in September.
So he appreciates the concern about his health, but he’s not worried about how the workload may affect him. He’s worried about getting better and helping the Orioles win.
“Every time I take the mound, when they tell me to start, I’ve felt great every time I’ve been out there this year,” he said. “I can’t really complain. Yeah, I lost the feel and a little command issues here and there. I think that’s just growing pains and I’m looking forward to fighting through them.
“Two or less starts left in the regular season. And then you get two-and-a-half months of rest, that’s the way I kind of look at it,” he said. “You might as well go all out.”