Yes, Dylan Bundy’s fastball velocity was down Wednesday night during the Orioles’ 5-4, 11th inning win.
And that can make a fan base nervous.
Because this is Bundy, who is finally healthy and pitching the way everyone expected him to when the Orioles selected him with the fourth pick overall in 2011.
And that Bundy, pre-elbow surgery and pre-shoulder injury, reached the high 90s with his menacing fastball.
The Bundy on Wednesday hit 90 mph or higher just twice in his first two innings. By the fourth, though, he was consistently in the low 90s, topping out at 93.3 mph, according to mlb.com’s Gameday. His last two four-seam fastballs in the seventh inning were 92 and 91.7.
What gives? Why was his fastball better in the middle innings?
“Probably getting loosened up more, more so than that first and second inning, because I did feel better with my overall body in the third or fourth inning,” he said. “I started to feel better overall. And I think I did notice it a little bit, more life on the ball at the end across the plate.”
Bundy has five quality starts in five attempts. His ERA is sitting at 1.65. He allowed just two solo homers Wednesday and said he now understands how he has to pitch – more changeups, more sliders, more two-seam fastballs – when he’s not carrying his top fastball.
So, he’s not concerned at all, and he says you shouldn’t be either.
“A quality start is a quality start. I’m not too worried about the numbers. I don’t think you guys need to be worried either. But I’ve been mixing in more two-seamers this year,” he said. “But, overall, I felt good when I left the game, so I’m happy about it.”
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he’s mindful of Bundy’s drop in velocity, but it also shows the pitcher he has become.
“Sure, I see it. And we talk to him,” Showalter said. “I thought this was one of his better outings, considering. He needed all of his weapons tonight to get through that. Early on, he was really struggling to get the ball where he wanted to get it. It is something you notice, because you have a history of guys. … I like to think he’s pacing himself through this and knows when to go back and get (the better fastball) and when not to. But it’s something we are going to keep an eye on.”
A real home run, Grandpa?
There’s probably about nine of you that remember that Bell System commercial back in 1983, when a little boy on a phone (one attached to the wall and everything) told his grandfather about a home run he hit, which, video showed, was a series of Little League errors. He ends the tale with, “A real home run, Grandpa.”
That bit of ‘how-do-you-remember-this crap?’ nostalgia struck me in the second inning Wednesday night when Seth Smith singled to center. And scored.
He scored because Ryan Flaherty trucked to third as Kevin Kiermaier unleashed a bad throw. Pitcher Alex Cobb picked up the ball in foul territory and threw back to third to try and get Flaherty again.
The ball caromed off Flaherty’s helmet and bounced into left field. Flaherty scored easily and Smith, who never stopped running, scored just ahead of the throw home.
“Two strikes, just trying to steal second and he put the ball in play and it turned into a circus,” Flaherty said. “Going to third, the ball gets away, try to go home, then you realize don’t go home. You go back to third, it ends up hitting you in the helmet. It bounces in the outfield for an inside the park home run. … It’s a complete circus play.”
Great hustle play by Smith. And one of the more bizarre sequences I’ve seen in some time – at least since that 1980s commercial.
Shelve the worries about O’Day for now
There was growing concern that Darren O’Day wasn’t the same pitcher this year that he had been in the past.
It’s a long season, I said in the first week when O’Day allowed five runs in his first three outings while battling the flu. It’s still a long season, so let’s not make proclamations that O’Day is all the way back just yet.
But he sure looked like the guy who has been one of the most dependable relievers in club history. He entered Wednesday’s game in the eighth with the bases loaded and no outs and the Orioles clinging to a 3-2 lead. He picked up two groundouts and a pop-up, allowing only one run to score.
“That was probably the biggest part of the game other than Dylan’s outing was Darren doing that job in that situation,” Showalter said. “That was big for us. … I think we all have a lot of confidence when there’s a bump in the road or something that he’ll get back on track.”
In his last six innings, spanning six appearances, O’Day has allowed three hits, no walks and no runs while striking out five.
Due to the lack of innings, that 5.19 ERA still isn’t pretty. But what matters for relievers is what they’ve done lately, and O’Day has been O’Day lately.
To bunt or not to bunt
I had several Twitter followers complain to me that the Orioles should have bunted with runners at first and second and no outs with the game tied 3-3 in the eighth.
I wouldn’t have, because Mark Trumbo was up. And, frankly, he’s not a bunter. He’s a guy that led the AL in homers last year.
Some of the Twitter followers pressed forward.
OK, then bring in Craig Gentry, who can bunt to get the runners over. Then you’d have a runner on third with one out.
Again, I get it, but I still wouldn’t have done it.
In a tie game, in the late innings, the last thing I’d do is replace a bat like Trumbo’s – one that can end a game with one swing – with Gentry’s. Furthermore, you also are taking Gentry’s legs off the bench, when you might need him to run later in the game (the remaining pinch-running options were Caleb Joseph, J.J. Hardy and Trey Mancini, not exactly sprinters).
In fact, Gentry did score the winning run in the 11th, after he pinch-ran for Welington Castillo (though he jogged home from third on Smith’s walkoff walk).
I understand Trumbo has struggled this year, but it’s been 20 games, not 80. Of course, Trumbo fanned in the eighth, so the move – or non-move – backfired.
Still, I would have done the same thing as Showalter – and not exchanged Trumbo’s bat for an out by a bunting Gentry.
Rickard about ready; Fry demoted
Joey Rickard (left middle finger sprain) looks like he is done his brief rehab assignment after playing a doubleheader at Low-A Delmarva on Wednesday. He batted second and had a single in three at-bats in each game.
Rickard was supposed to play the outfield in one of Wednesday’s games, but due to the recent rain in the region, the Orioles had Rickard serve as the designated hitter in both contests for the Shorebirds.
Showalter expects that Rickard will be activated Friday for the series in New York. The Orioles sent lefty Paul Fry back to Triple-A Norfolk after Wednesday’s game, so a 25-man roster spot has been created for Rickard.
That means the Orioles will have a five-man bench for a while – at least until they need to make more roster moves to add closer Zach Britton and starter Chris Tillman.