What’s happening? — Dylan Bundy doesn’t have to worry about his spot in the rotation, not after delivering the most consistent performance of any of the Orioles’ starters in 2017.
And manager Buck Showalter said he has no worries about how the 25-year-old will build on last year, when Bundy was 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA in 28 starts. There seemingly always has been a maturity that belies Bundy’s age and experience.
“He’s kind of been that way. He’s got a good feel for his surroundings. He’s mature baseball-wise. Dylan makes good decisions. He’s very focused. He knows what it calls for,” Showalter said. “He’s not a guy I worry about getting ready and being prepared and … being surprised by something. He’s always a proactive guy. He likes to prepare. He likes it on Game Day, too.”
Bundy will make his second appearance of the spring today, pitching against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium. His first outing, on Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies, wasn’t pretty. He allowed five runs on four hits – including a grand slam by catcher Jesus Alfaro – and three walks in two innings.
But it was a first Grapefruit League appearance. And Bundy dismissed it as an outing where he was just content to be back on the mound. Even if today is another clunker, the Orioles won’t be too concerned. Bundy’s a guy they are counting on to help lead this rotation. And now that he is healthy, he’s given them no reason to think he won’t be ready to pitch when the games are for real.
What’s happened? – Nestor Cortes Jr., continues to keep his name in the mix for the fifth starter’s spot, throwing two innings and allowing one run on four hits Thursday against the Tampa Bay Rays. He struck out three – mixing arm angles and off-speed stuff while wasting no time on the mound.
At one point he had to wait for his defense to change alignments in between batters while he was ready to step on the pitching rubber.
The Rule 5 pick and former 36th rounder by the New York Yankees is going to give up some loud hits – and he allowed a solo homer by Jesus Sucre in the second – but he minimizes damage and can miss bats. He’s allowed one run in two innings in each of his two starts.
“He can do a lot of things with the baseball. Some wind-blown balls, that (home run) was hit pretty good, though. But he’s presenting himself as advertised,” Showalter said. “I thought he was a little better (Thursday). That was good to see. He’s got good command of the fastball, works ahead and can spin the ball. He’ll need all his weapons, but that’s part of who he is.”
Because he is a Rule 5 pick, he must stay on the Orioles’ roster all season or be offered back to the Yankees. So, he’ll get an extended look – perhaps as both as starter and a reliever. If he made the rotation, however, he would be the club’s only starting southpaw.
“I’m here to help the team. I’m here to win games, whether it’s starting, whether it’s relieving,” Cortes said. “Whatever they want me to do, I’m here for it.”
Cortes is never going to overpower hitters, but he had two Rays batters shaking their heads during his outing after pitches that appeared to be balls crossed the plate in the strike zone. He uses deception created by the varying arm angles, and he pitches with a little chip on his shoulder.
“Not a lot of people think I can do it, but I have confidence in me, and I think the club has confidence in me,” Cortes said. “Moving forward, I think it’ll be good.”
** Outfielder Austin Hays underwent a cortisone shot in his inflamed right shoulder and will be out a few days, Showalter confirmed. Hays is expected to rest his arm and should be back in the playing mix following Monday’s offday. Showalter also said Craig Gentry (hamstring) should be back by Tuesday.
** Right-hander Andrew Cashner, who was signed Feb. 15 and is being eased into his routine, had a two-inning simulated game Thursday, facing several Oriole hitters including Gentry and Mark Trumbo. Showalter said it went well, and Cashner will throw a three-inning simulated game Tuesday.
** Right-hander Kevin Gausman (eye abrasion) will make his next turn Saturday in Clearwater versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
What’s up with? – Joely Rodriguez. The 26-year-old left-hander was signed in November as a minor league free agent by the Orioles after he had a rough year with the Philadelphia Phillies and the Texas Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate.
Rodriguez has pitched in 38 big league games, all in relief for the Phillies in 2016 and 2017, and has compiled a career 5.40 ERA.
His fastball, however, can reach into the mid-90s and he’s left-handed – so the Orioles figured he was worth a look. And it has paid off so far. On Thursday, Rodriguez entered in the third inning, pitched a scoreless frame and struck out two Rays.
He’s now thrown three scoreless innings in three games, fanning three batters while allowing three hits and a hit batsman.
“A lot of times you kind of try to take out any negatives in their track records and go, ‘OK.’ You try a fresh start with all of them,” Showalter said. “I know talking about some people I know in Philadelphia, they always thought that potential is there for him. There was a lot of debate about whether to bring him back (to the Phillies). He’s getting a good opportunity and, so far, he is running with it.”
What’s what? – Since Monday, Orioles’ games have been delayed three times for an injury on the field that resulted in a player leaving the game. On Monday, Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman left after colliding with a Detroit Tigers’ hitter while backing up home plate. On Tuesday, Orioles lefty Chris Lee left the mound after straining an oblique muscle. And Thursday, Rays’ catcher Nick Ciuffo had to leave the game in the seventh after being struck in the head by DJ Stewart’s backswing.
What’s the word? – “Obviously, I’m starting spring training games, so that means something. As of right now, I’m just concentrating on getting people out and showing my best stuff.” – Nestor Cortes on competing for a roster spot, which includes potentially the fifth starter’s role.
What’s the number? — 6.33. That was Rodriguez’s inflated ERA at two different stops – and the same amount of innings — in 2017. Being that consistent – good or bad – is a fluke. Rodriguez posted the 6.33 ERA in 27 innings and 26 games for the Philadelphia Phillies, who sent him to the Texas Rangers for future considerations last June. He was demoted to Triple-A Round Rock where he again posted a 6.33 ERA in 27 innings (19 earned runs allowed at each stint). At Round Rock he pitched in 22 games.
What’s the record? – 2-5-1. The Orioles beat the Rays on Thursday at Port Charlotte, on the strength of a three-run seventh that included a bases-loaded walk, a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly. Outfielder Cedric Mullins ignited the rally with a one-out double.