Where does Bundy factor into the Orioles’ season?

Zach Britton turned in his second consecutive quality start last night since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk. Jason Hammel threw a simulated game without any discomfort in his right knee and is nearing a rehab assignment. Steve Johnson is making his second major league start tonight. Tommy Hunter has been optioned to Double-A Bowie.

The Orioles’ rotation is a constant work in progress. I’ve seen less construction for next weekend’s Grand Prix.

Could the Orioles make room in it for Dylan Bundy?

Manager Buck Showalter was asked yesterday whether there might be a surprise in the rotation once rosters expand Sept. 1. A smile spread across his face and he said, “I know what you’re getting at.” He also invoked the name of another high-round draft pick, as if we’d fall for that one.

As each day passes, it seems more obvious that Bundy will be called up and make his major league debut before the season ends. At age 19. After beginning the year at low Single-A Delmarva.

Bundy figured to get an inning here and there out of the bullpen, but not according to the latest rumor, which has the Orioles recalling him on Aug. 31 and giving him a start on Sept. 6 against the Yankees at Camden Yards.

Keep in mind that what I’m passing along hasn’t been confirmed to me by anyone in the front office. And on the surface, it seems pretty strange that the Orioles would hand the ball to Bundy in the heat of a pennant race against the first-place team in the American League East - assuming that the Orioles haven’t overtaken them. But nothing surprises me anymore when it comes to the 2012 Orioles and their improbable run toward the playoffs.

Manny Machado is the everyday third baseman. Nate McLouth is batting third. Brian Matusz is a lefty specialist. Miguel Gonzalez is a key member of the rotation. Adrian Beltre hits three home runs in the same game against the Orioles, and two nights later, Chris Davis hits three home runs in the same game against the Blue Jays. Davis has one fewer win than Cliff Lee.

I stopped trying to make sense of it a long time ago.

Bundy is 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA in 22 starts at three levels of the farm system. He’s allowed 63 hits, walked 24 and struck out 113 in 98 1/3 innings. And in case you hadn’t heard, he’s doing it without his cutter.

It no longer seems to be a question of whether Bundy will join the Orioles this year. It’s just a matter of how they will use him.

Or maybe they’re just toying with us. You can read a lot into a smile.

Stay tuned.

Shameless plug alert: I’m appearing on “Wall to Wall Baseball” today from noon-2 p.m. on MASN. Watch Dave Johnson try to steady his nerves before Steve’s start.

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