SARASOTA, Fla. - Dylan Bundy has set June 28 as his target date to pitch in a “competitive” game, exactly one year after undergoing ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.
Bundy, regarded in some circles as the Orioles’ top prospect - slightly ahead of pitcher Kevin Gausman - is throwing from 60 feet and said “everything’s great.”
“I’m throwing without pain for the first time in a year, so that’s always a positive,” Bundy said after participating in today’s mini-camp in Sarasota. “I’m up to 60 feet now. It feels great. Now it’s just a progression to get out to 200 feet and then get on a mound. I think the plan is hopefully to be on a mound or a half-mound at the end of spring training.”
Asked whether he’s ahead of schedule, Bundy replied, “It’s a tough question, whether you’re ahead of schedule or not on schedule, because different players come back at different times. It just kind of depends on your work ethic and whether you have setbacks when you get back on a mound. But I’d say I’m on schedule so far and I’m happy with it.”
And that schedule could allow him to make his first non-rehab start, most likely at Double-A Bowie, since 2012. He didn’t pitch last season.
“They say 10 to 12 to 14 months, something like that,” he said. “I had surgery on June 28, so really my plan is to be in a game competitively by June 28. Hopefully, the plan is to be pitching in sim games or these games down here in the GCL for a little bit by June. That’s the plan. Plans change, though.”
Bundy was asked what he’s learned during his time away from baseball.
“Go to the trainers,” he replied. “If you’ve got a little bit of pain, no matter if it’s a small thing, maybe there’s a chance they can take care of it earlier. That’s a little piece of advice. I tried to throw through it because that’s just my mentality. If I think I could have gotten through it, I tried it, especially down in the minor league camp, and it didn’t work for me. We tried different processes - rehab, rest and then the platelet rich plasma thing - and that didn’t work. I wish I had it done earlier so I could come back earlier this year, but that’s just how things go.
“That first month after surgery was hard, seeing everybody playing and I’m just sitting on the couch resting. It was hard. But after I started doing my shoulder exercises and stuff like that, seeing progress helped.”
Bundy has been focusing on lower-body exercises and ones designed to strengthen his shoulder.
“I’ve never done so many shoulder exercises in my life,” he said. “In high school, I didn’t know a whole lot of shoulder stuff. I just worked out and long tossed and did some mini-band stuff for my shoulder. Right now, we’re doing a lot of exercises and definitely my shoulder feels a lot stronger than it has been, so I know coming back that if I keep doing these exercises, it should feel great.”
The Orioles want Bundy to adjust his offseason workout routine and eliminate the chance of a setback.
“There are some things we’ve already changed, as far as what I’ve done in the offseason,” he said. “As far as workout-wise, there’s some stuff that I’ve changed that I don’t do anymore. It could be for the better. You learn as you go. I changed some stuff last year in my offseason program that might have hurt me, might have not. You never know. But as you get older, your body changes. You’ve got to change with it.
“Not so much less lifting. I mean, yes, we’re doing less upper body, just because I’m still six months out, but mainly some of the exercises I did back then, because I told them what I did in the offseason. You know, communication is huge between us. I was being honest with them and telling them what we were doing. We cut some of it out. But we also do some of the stuff I have been doing, which mainly is legs for me.”
Bundy, 21, is rehabbing under the supervision of minor league medical coordinator Dave Walker, who played catch with him earlier in the day.
“Right now, he told me the main thing is throwing,” Bundy said. “That’s what my job is, to pitch, so the main thing it throwing. Before I started throwing, the main thing is getting your shoulder exercises done every day - and elbow exercises, whatever you’re doing that day. That was the main goal, to do that right and do it correctly and stay on it. And now every other day, it’s throwing. That’s the main goal. That’s what you want to accomplish every other day and do it right and get good use from it.”
It’s possible that Bundy will be able to pitch for the Orioles in the second half, though he’s not looking that far ahead.
“I look at it like I want to be competing by mid-June, something like that, and hopefully no setbacks happen,” he said. “As far as getting back to the big leagues, that’s their decision. That’s up to Buck (Showalter) and the front office people. However it goes, that’s how it goes. I can’t really predict the future.”
Bundy’s older brother, Bobby, could arrive in Sarasota next month to continue rehabbing from his own Tommy John surgery, which he underwent in August after having bone chips removed from his elbow two months earlier. He’s not likely to pitch in 2014.