Bundy's the young pitcher taking a big step forward for the Orioles so far in 2017 - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Paul Folkemer

Bundy’s the young pitcher taking a big step forward for the Orioles so far in 2017

The Orioles’ best starting pitcher so far this season might not have been the guy everyone initially expected.

Of the club’s two young starters entering the season, Kevin Gausman was supposed to be the surer thing, the hurler who would develop into an ace after his great second half in 2016. Dylan Bundy was considered more of a question mark. Plenty of potential, but nobody was certain how his arm would hold up or how hitters would adjust to him in his first full year in a major league rotation.

But so far in 2017, while Gausman has struggled through his first four starts, Bundy has thrived. It’s still early, but the burly right-hander may be developing into the Orioles’ next ace.

His latest gem came against the tough Red Sox lineup Friday, when Bundy barreled through seven shutout innings and didn’t allow an extra-base hit. Though he wasn’t flawless, Bundy was able to make some big pitches to wriggle his way out of jams.

Bundy’s two best escapes came in the second — when he worked out of a first and third, no-out predicament with a strikeout and a double play — and the sixth, when he induced three lazy pop flies after the first two Boston batters reached base. Bundy was helped by three double-play grounders in the first three innings.

“I really just had to use all my pitches tonight,” Bundy said. “That’s a tough lineup over there, a tough lineup to get out. They just battled from pitch one. And they battled me the whole night. So, it was a tough one. I got some double-play balls that my defense helped me out on and got me out of some jams. I think that was really the key to the game.”

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Bundy has now delivered quality starts in all four of his outings, and his season ERA sits at 1.37. He’s struck out 20 batters and walked four in 26 1/3 innings of work.

Bundy, of course, won’t carry a 1.37 ERA all season. Hitters will make adjustments, and he’ll need to adjust accordingly.

Right now, though, Bundy is pitching like the front-line starter the Orioles imagined him to be when they selected him with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 amateur draft. It’s been a long journey for him, overcoming years of injuries, to get to where he is now. And a breakout Bundy season would be a huge boon to the Orioles’ postseason hopes in 2017 — and perhaps beyond.

“We could tell [in spring training] he had gained a lot of confidence from last year and felt good physically,” manager Buck Showalter said. “There were a lot of things in his favor to get off to a good start. He really came in at camp in good shape and his arm felt really good.

“And he’s taken it and run with it so far.”

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