SARASOTA, Fla. - One year after proving to the Orioles that he could stay healthy and in their rotation for an entire season, Dylan Bundy has been chosen as their opening day starter. He’ll take the mound against the Twins on March 29 at Camden Yards.
Manager Buck Showalter informed Bundy of his decision prior to today’s game against the Red Sox at Ed Smith Stadium.
“Buck called us (starters) into the office and kind of explained how things were going to work,” he said. “Obviously, I’m honored and humbled by it. Very excited. Have to control the emotions a little bit and just pitch my game.”
Tillman had started the last three openers, but a shoulder injury ended his streak.
“I wasn’t even expecting it or thinking it,” Bundy said. “Really, I was trying to get through spring training and work on the stuff I need to work on, and let things play out however they may be. So, wasn’t expecting it, but definitely humbled by it.
The clubhouse has a few starters who can offer him advice on the assignment.
“Control the emotions a little bit,” he said. “Obviously, I’ll lean on them for any advice or any expectations I might have going into the game since they have done it before. Good guys to have giving you advice for that.”
Bundy is 1-2 with a 9.00 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in four Grapefruit League starts and opponents have posted a .343 average against him, but Showalter and pitching coach Roger McDowell are willing to overlook spring stats. He’s allowed 15 earned runs (16 total) and 23 hits in 15 innings, with four walks and 11 strikeouts.
“I got my pitch count up to 94-95, so the pitch count’s there and I’m ready to start the season,” he said. “I’m happy with the shape of my pitches this year and I’ve just got to keep working on command, which is something we work on every day for however long you play this game is commanding the baseball. Just got to hit your spots and trust in my stuff.”
One more start remains for Bundy in Florida with Friday’s outing against the Rays at Ed Smith Stadium. His preparation won’t change with today’s news.
“You’re going to go out there and work on your pitches and you’re going to try to get major league hitters out,” he said. “So, what I’m going to do tomorrow is go out there and pitch however many innings I need to throw and get outs.”
Asked this morning about where he’d slot into the rotation, Bundy said he hadn’t been told and was waiting to find out. Now he knows.
The opening day assignment serves as a reward for Bundy, the most consistent and productive starter last season in a rotation that posted a franchise-worst 5.70 ERA. He went 13-9 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 28 games and logged a career-high 169 2/3 innings, four years after undergoing ligament-reconstructive surgery on his right elbow.
The Orioles made Bundy the fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma. His major league debut came the following year with two September relief appearances, but he didn’t return to the majors until 2016.
Bundy accumulated 36 appearances, the last 14 as a starter, and went 10-6 with a 4.02 ERA and 1.377 WHIP in 109 2/3 innings. He was out of minor league options and initially stashed in the bullpen before he earned the trust of Showalter and his staff, along with the opportunity to join the rotation.
Gausman, the fourth overall pick in 2012 out of LSU, hasn’t allowed a run in his last two spring starts over eight innings. He could follow Bundy in the rotation, with Andrew Cashner also lined up to pitch in the Twins series.
Tillman is expected to make his debut on April 2 in Houston, with the fifth starter still to be determined. Alex Cobb, signed this week to a four-year, $57 million contract, will join the rotation later in the month after a stint at extended spring training and in the minors.
“I’m not going to say on that one,” he said, smiling. “Just see how it plays out, I guess.”
He’s just glad to be part of a rotation that appears to have been upgraded. It certainly looks better on paper.
“Seeing what the front office is doing and signing guys that are going to help us in the AL East, I think everybody in the rotation is excited and ready to get this season started,” he said.
“I feel great about it. I think we all do. I think you can tell in the clubhouse yesterday and today how excited everyone is to get the season started and get underway here.”
Bundy is the 13th different opening day starter for the Orioles since 2000. He joins Mike Mussina, Pat Hentgen, Scott Erickson, Rodrigo Lopez, Sidney Ponson, Erik Bedard, Jeremy Guthrie, Kevin Millwood, Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel, Tillman and Gausman. Jimmy Key would bring the total to 14 going back to 1997.
The Orioles scored six runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and lead the Red Sox 10-7. They sent 10 batters to the plate, with Chance Sisco delivering a two-run double after his two-run homer in the previous inning.