On Friday night, Dylan Bundy made his third rehab start with the Aberdeen Ironbirds. Of course, he shut down the New York Penn League opposition again and I was there to witness the game in all its glory. He threw five shutout innings while allowing three hits and two walks. He racked up seven strikeouts on the evening, but the results really aren't that important. A pitcher of Bundy's caliber should slice through a lineup of hitters who are mainly getting their first taste of minor league baseball.
What I really wanted to see on Friday night was how Dylan was throwing after returning from an almost year long rehab process after Tommy John surgery. It had been a couple of years since I had seen him in person, but having seen him before I had a point of reference to compare his stuff to which was helpful.
Bundy, who is still only 21 years old, certainly looked good but he's not all the way back to his pre-surgery form. The velocity on his fastball ranged from 90-93 while topping out at 94. Even though he's only 6'1", which isn't exceptionally tall for a pitcher he is able to get strong downward plane on his fastball due to a high three quarters delivery. His velocity pre-surgery was definitely a couple ticks faster when he sat 94-96. While his velocity is down, Bundy is going to have to command the pitch to both sides of the plate, which he was able to do in this outing. I would expect more velocity to come back as he continues to get further away from the surgery.
Friday night was the one year anniversary of the TJ surgery so he's still in recovery mode. The pitch isn't in the elite velocity range right now, but it could be once his arm is full strength. The return of his pre-surgery velocity is definitely something to keep an eye on. Right now, he'll have to rely on command and movement to get hitters out with the pitch. It's a little straight but even at the decreased velo range, the pitch still has a lot of life.
Bundy's favorite secondary pitch on the night was old Uncle Charlie, the curveball. He threw a lot of them, even doubling up on them a few times. He was throwing them between 72-75 mph, which again is a few ticks below where he was a couple years ago. Even so, the curveball looked really good. He could manipulate the pitch to throw it for a strike or to bury it in the dirt when he was looking for a strikeout.
Out of his hand the curveball looks just like his fastball, which makes it extremely hard for the hitter to pick up. At this level, the batters had just about no chance. He did hang one in his last inning of work that Renegades' right fielder Elias Torres was able to line down the left field line for a double. Torres' liner was easily the hardest hit ball off of Bundy all night. It was an effective pitch otherwise, and he was able to steal a few strikes early in the count with it. He also was able to get a couple strikeouts on the pitch when the batter gave up on it, and it dropped in for a strike.
His other secondary pitch is a change up. Last night, Bundy threw the change up 86-88 while only throwing a handful of them. While the velocity on his fastball is only in the low nineties, the delta between the two is not large enough to mess up the hitters timing. Either he's going to have to find the missing velo on his fastball or he's going to have to take something off of his change. Ideally, you'd like to have a difference of about 10 mph between a fastball and change up.
This is the pitch that needs the most work. Right now, it's a little too firm which causes the pitch not to drop as much as it would at a lower velocity range. On Friday night there just wasn't enough movement on it or enough separation from his fastball. He didn't throw more than a handful but one was lined sharply to center field for a single.
I've read all of his post game comments and I haven't seen a single reference to it, but it certainly looked like he was throwing a cutter too. The pitch was thrown in about the same velocity band as his change up but had glove side and downward movement. It's possible that once Bundy made it to the major leagues that the team took the shackles off. I'm not sure how the organization feels about him throwing it now, but they had told him not to throw it in the past.
Even during that time, he would uncork one every once in a while and it was awesome. The pitch I saw on Friday was still good, but it wasn't jaw dropping like a couple years ago. I'd guess that it'll come back the more he throws it and the further removed from surgery he gets. That will be another thing to keep an eye on.
"It's going to be a 75-pitch limit, you know, all the way through the summer," he said. "I don't see it going much above 75, if it does. That is the way you do it on a ligament rehab. You get to a certain pitch level and you stay there for the whole season."
It makes a lot of sense to bring him back slowly this season in his return, and then take the reins off next season. Any hope Orioles fans had of seeing Bundy start in the major leagues this season can probably end now. If we see him with the big club this year, it'll almost certainly be in relief.
It was obvious to everyone in attendance that Bundy isn't challenged by the NYPL and needs to face stiffer competition. To that end, the Orioles have announced that he'll be starting for the Frederick Keys on Thursday, July 3rd. I'd expect him to make three to four starts there before moving on to Bowie. I was pleased to see that he's pretty close to what he was before and the surgery certainly seems like a success. There is still a lot to be excited about with him. The surgery didn't take away what looks like an extremely bright future.