For the third year in a row, the Orioles are off to a sizzling 2-0 start to the season, and over the Jays, no less. Unlike the last two years, or even the last decade, the Orioles have done it on the backs of starts by two homegrown arms. To find the last time the Orioles started the season with two products of their own farm system, you’d have to go all the way back to 2005 when they trotted out Erik Bedard and Daniel Cabrera to begin the season.
As frightening as it is to recall, you read that correctly. There was a time that Cabrera was the Orioles #2 starter. What’s even harder to believe is that team was in first place almost until July.
While the current top of the Orioles rotation only became a reality due to the Chris Tillman injury, the idea of an Orioles rotation lead by two recent, number one draft picks is something that Orioles fans have been dreaming of for a long time. The fact that neither is a free agent until Kevin Gausman’s contract ends in 2021 is icing on the cake, especially when the Orioles window may seem to be closing.
Unfortunately, Orioles optimists have certainly been fooled by young starters before. Anyone remember Brian Matusz’s second half of the season in 2010? It’s always best to temper expectations just a little bit. That being said, let’s first build some unsustainable hype.
The Orioles front office has long stated their philosophy is to “grow the arms.” It’s finally happened. Not one home-grown ace, but TWO.
Gausman’s performance suggested a more mature pitcher on Opening Day, flashing some new looks along the way. It was by no means a perfect start, or even a quality one for that matter, but successfully navigating an extremely tough Blue Jay’s lineup without your best command is no easy feat.
If anything, those are the kinds of outings that Gausman will need to be able to string together in order to take that next step as a starter. He’s going to need to stay in the game and give the Orioles a chance to win even when he doesn’t have his best stuff. We already know what he can do when he is on.
Gausman showed flashes of this last season, particularly in the second half when he pitched to an ERA of 3.10. In August and September when the Orioles needed it most, he strung together four scoreless starts in five games with an ERA of only 0.81.
We’ve discussed how he’s been working to become more than simply a two-pitch pitcher and the Orioles certainly need it. The arrow is pointing up, and it’s looking like Gausman is about to show Orioles fans why the team drafted him fourth overall in the 2012 draft.
Now onto Bundy. Oh. My. God. If you didn’t see him last night, here’s a little taste:
Bundy was in complete control for seven innings, allowing only four hits and one earned run while tying his career high with 99 pitches. Utterly dominant. He struck out eight and even more impressively walked none. Is that good? All four hits given up were singles, and most were weakly hit ones at that. Perhaps the cutter/slider is the weapon to get him through the order a third time.
When Bundy is on like he was on Wednesday night, he can dominate a lineup like no Orioles pitcher we’ve seen since Erik Bedard’s 2007 season. He’s back to showing all of the traits, cutter/slider included, that caused many scouts to consider him the #1 pitching prospect in all of baseball back in 2012.
In combination with Gausman, the Orioles may potentially have not one, but two homegrown stars at the top of their rotation, not just for this season, but for the next four years.
Orioles fans have watched their fair share of promising pitching prospects come and go over the last decade. With the exception of the aforementioned Bedard, the Orioles have had an embarrassingly unsuccessful time developing quality major league starters.
Some pitchers, cough cough Jake Arrieta cough, have shown so much success elsewhere to pretty much suggest the Orioles organization has not only been failing to develop starting pitchers, but has been actively holding starters back in their development. Why should we believe this to be any different after only two games?
As the season goes on, this part of this feature will expand upon a similarly pessimistic viewpoint and generally take the tone of, say, Camden Chat’s head honcho, Mark Brown. I will most certainly dampen some expectations and lessen some hopes. Today, we’re going to skip that part.
It would be easy to point out the hilariously small sample size this season, Gausman’s inability to make it out of the fifth inning on Monday, or the fact that Bundy has only thrown 175 professional innings since reaching the majors in 2012 and tailed off majorly towards the end of last season. But I’m not going to worry about that. Are you worried? Tell us about it in the comments below.
I spent 14 straight years, still fresh in my mind, when the fleeting feelings of hope in early April were easily the best moments of the entire season. As long as the Orioles are undefeated, everything is perfect in my mind and I’m riding the hype train. Negativity can wait a few games.
Two games is definitely far too soon to be claiming ace status on any pitcher, let alone two. I know this, we all know this. But, there are definitely signs that Gausman and Bundy are well on their way. Barring any strokes of extreme misfortune, knock on wood, their names should avoid being listed in the same breath as Cabrera, or Adam Loewen, or Matt Riley.
Gausman looks primed to continue the success he had down the stretch last year. Buck Showalter sending him back out with confidence to start the sixth inning on Opening Day with Gausman nearing 100 pitches suggests that the Orioles think he is ready to step up as well. And Bundy, what else is there to say? Let’s just enjoy the ride.
The Orioles front office has probably been hoping for this and it may not be the last time that Bundy and Gausman start the season atop the Orioles rotation.
Both have added pitches to their arsenal to allow them be more effective, and if the Orioles are going to go further in 2017 than they did in 2016, they will do it on the backs of their homegrown arms. And of course homers. Lots and lots of homers.
Where do you fit in? Are you saving for playoff tickets already, dreading the inevitable Bundy injury, or somewhere in between? Drop into the comments and let us know.