2018 Bundy is more fun to watch than any O's pitcher since Mussina (Mancini, Trumbo notes) - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

2018 Bundy is more fun to watch than any O’s pitcher since Mussina (Mancini, Trumbo notes)

I know Friday night was only Dylan Bundy’s fifth start of the season.

Lots can change as the long baseball year progresses.

So, this proclamation is probably a little premature here.

But so far, the 2018 version of Bundy is the most fun Orioles starter to watch since Mike Mussina in the last 1990s. Maybe only the 2007 Erik Bedard is in that conversation – and with Bedard you never knew how long that party would last.

Bundy pitching, at least right now, has become a must-watch – whether live or on TV.

“It’s fun to watch him pitch, in every sense of the word,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Bundy picked up his first win of the season in a 3-1 victory over Cleveland. “That’s a tough lineup. That’s one of the best lineups in baseball. … There’s very few spots where you can gain an advantage. So, you’ve got to pitch.”

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Although it’s easy to point out the nightmare stretches for the Orioles’ rotation over the past two decades, there have been some good ones, too. Chris Tillman, you may have forgotten, was pretty darn impressive at times, especially in 2014. So were some others.

This 2018 Bundy is different, though. Different even from the Bundy we saw last year.

He’s got the Tillman bulldog mentality, the Mussina command and the Bedard swing-and-miss capability all working in concert right now.

“He’s commanding all three of his pitches. Every pitch is going and he’s commanding it,” Orioles shortstop Manny Machado said. “He’s doing whatever he wants with that ball, and, when you’re doing that, it feels great.”

Against a good Indians’ lineup Friday, Bundy (1-2, 1.42 ERA) allowed one run in six innings while striking out nine. He’s fanned six or more batters and allowed two runs or fewer in each of his five starts. On Friday, he set a career-high by inducing 24 swings-and-misses.

His slider was particularly sharp, but the beauty of Bundy is that he felt like his command wasn’t good for the first few innings, which elevated his pitch count to 108. But he finished his final frame by striking out the side.

“You can definitely reach down there and get some more when you need it after your offense comes through for you and you know it’s your last inning,” Bundy said. “So just go out there and give it all you’ve got.”

He keeps the hitters guessing and the fans hanging on each pitch. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that regularly at Camden Yards.

Another beauty of Bundy is that bulldog part. His first inning could have been a disaster. He loaded the bases with one out – after a foul pop was dropped – and then he hit Edwin Encarnacion, technically anyway, on his elbow protector to bring in a run.

Bundy didn’t unravel though. He picked up the next two outs to keep the damage to one run and made sure he didn’t put the Orioles into too big of a hole.

That was gutsy. That was key. That was – once again — fun to watch.

Mancini’s scare in the eighth

Left fielder Trey Mancini left in the game in eighth inning after he attempted to make a sliding catch and instead slid into the left field wall in foul territory. His right knee banged into the brick area under the padding.

Mancini immediately rolled over in pain. Not a pleasant moment – especially given that Mancini has become one of the club’s most important players. Mancini walked off on his own power and later had X-Rays taken of the knee.

“It was bad. With this cold and sliding into that brick wall, it’s no fun. That hurts. Hopefully everything’s all right and (X-Rays come) out negative,” Machado said. “He’s a big part of this team and hopefully he’s all right.”

The Orioles hope it’s just a knee laceration and a day-to-day situation, but it’s probably a stretch to think he will play Saturday, which would leave the Orioles with a two-man bench temporarily.

“He’s got a puncture in there, too. We’ll see how he is (Saturday),” Showalter said. “They’re contemplating a couple of sutures, but we’ll see.”

Waiting on Trumbo’s return

Designated hitter Mark Trumbo, who has been on the disabled list with a strained right quad since the season started, is getting close to returning to the majors.

He’ll likely go out on a minor rehab assignment soon, perhaps as early as Monday. And if all goes well could return to the Orioles at some point next week.

Trumbo, 32, had a rough year last year, batting .234 with 23 homers and a .397 slugging percentage. But the guy is still a major league hitter who has had a lot of success in his career. And the Orioles offense – as you know – has been erratic.

Getting Trumbo back will add another strikeout guy to the lineup. But it also will add a hitter that other pitchers have to be somewhat careful in facing. Right now, with several hitters struggling and Jonathan Schoop on the disabled list, the Orioles can certainly use that.

Especially if Mancini’s knee injury is more serious than expected.

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