SARASOTA, Fla. - Results in exhibition games don’t matter until they suddenly do. Until the pitcher or hitter needs to get a return for the hard work. When concerns or frustrations start to build and need to be hushed.
Nobody in Orioles camp was in a panic over Dylan Bundy’s struggles, but manager Brandon Hyde noted this morning that the time arrived to turn in a more productive start, to feel good walking off the mound.
Bundy could have done cartwheels all the way to the bench if he was done after four innings. He hadn’t just moved past Saturday’s brutal outing in Port Charlotte - six runs in 1 2/3 innings - he floored the gas pedal.
Maybe he began to run out of gas in the fifth. Whatever the reason, Bundy surrendered three runs and threw 29 pitches as the Orioles fell behind 4-3. But he completed the inning while Pedro Araujo warmed in the bullpen and ended his day at 74 pitches, 51 for strikes.
Overall, a successful outing for Bundy, who allowed seven hits, walked a batter and struck out four.
“It felt great just to get up five times and finish five innings there,” he said. “They made me work a little bit there in the fifth, but that’s what we need in spring training, to work through some things.”
Bundy hadn’t gone more than three innings before today. His fastball sat at 90-92 mph and the changeup and slider induced swings and misses.
“Little bit better,” he said. “(Results) still not quite where I want them, but just getting up five times and finishing that fifth inning was big. Still got two more outings to do that and work the pitch count even a little bit higher next time.
“Getting ahead of batters today and the slider was a little more crisp. I actually had a changeup that was moving today, unlike last outing when it wasn’t moving too much for me. Fastball command for the most part was a little bit better today.
“The changeup, I was able to throw to lefties when I was behind in the count and sliders to righties mainly. I didn’t get to throw too many changeups or curveballs to right-handed hitters like I wanted to today, so maybe next outing that’s what I’ll work on.”
Thirty-five of Bundy’s 45 pitches were strikes heading to the fifth. Michael Reed had an RBI single and Jake Cave delivered a two-run double with two outs.
The Orioles tied the score in the bottom half on Christopher Bostick’s infield hit that brought home Eric Young Jr., who led off with a single and moved up on Chris Davis’ single. Ronald Torreyes hit a solo home run off Araujo in the top of the sixth, but Jace Peterson responded with a two-run shot in the bottom half to give the Orioles a 6-5 lead.
Peterson also had an RBI in the fourth on a 1-4-3 putout after Austin Hays’ run-scoring double and is batting .320 while trying to win a utility job.
Bundy threw all 10 pitches for strikes in the first inning and stranded Ehire Adrianza after a one-out single. He retired the side in order in the second and fourth, but the Twins used three singles in the third to tie the game.
Willians Astudillo’s RBI single settled into shallow left field, with Cedric Mullins unable to create a play at the plate. Reed reached on a blooper behind first base.
No other Orioles starter had logged more than 3 2/3 innings until today. Gabriel Ynoa worked four in relief on March 8.
What felt different for Bundy this afternoon?
“It’s hard to explain, I guess,” he said. “I think you just feel like you’re in more control and you can kind of put the ball anywhere you want it that day. But some days it’s not always like that.”
Mullins, only 4-for-29 this spring, led off the bottom of the first inning with his second home run.
Renato Núñez fouled a ball off the inside of his left knee in the fourth and was slow to get up. He stayed in the game, grounded a single into left field and came out for Bostick after reaching third base on Hays’ RBI double that broke a 1-1 tie.
Mark Trumbo, starting in back-to-back games, flied to center field in the first inning and grounded to short in the fourth. Two at-bats again today and an early exit.
Davis ran the count full and struck out looking in the first and ran the count full and drew a walk leading off the fourth. He scored on the Hays’ double.
The single in the fifth made Davis 3-for-16 this spring with three walks and nine strikeouts.
Update II: Branden Kline was charged with two hits and a run in the ninth and the Orioles lost 7-6.