Orioles director of pitching development Rick Peterson said the early-season plan for Dylan Bundy calls for the Orioles’ 2011 first-round pick to go three innings again in his next start Tuesday and then begin to bump up his innings per start after that.
The goal is to have Bundy pitch through the entire year staying within his season limit of 120 to 130 innings while being able to pitch much deeper into games toward the end of this season.
“We thought that (his going deeper into games late this year) was so vital that when he comes into next season, you take off the handcuffs. You want to eventually build him up to be able to pitch 200 innings,” Peterson said.
“He has one more start at three innings and then he’ll have three starts at four innings and then from there, he’ll have multiple starts at five innings. At the end of that segment, he’ll have starts at the end of the season when he can pitch deeper into the game. We’ll monitor that. Say he pitches eight innings in one game, we could bump it down for the next game.”
Peterson has worked with Bundy on tweaking the grip on his changeup and the early returns have been obviously great on all his pitches, with the 19-year-old pitching six perfect innings so far with 12 strikeouts.
“He’s off to a phenomenal start right now and in talking to him yesterday about Wednesday’s start, the first thing he brought up was, ‘Rick, you should have seen the changeup that I threw.’ Here’s a guy averaging 96 mph and topping out at 99 mph and the first comment he brought up was his changeup,” Peterson said.
“He realizes the fastball-changeup combo, if you can develop a plus changeup, with that fastball, you are talking about skyrocketing through a system. That translates to the big leagues at a much higher level than fastball-curveball and he’s got a really nice curveball. But he was excited about his changeup. He’s excited about his development with his secondary pitches, which is going to be critical.”
What everyone wants to know is if and when the Orioles will consider promoting Bundy to a higher level. Peterson said several people will be involved in those decisions to include himself, Dan Duquette, Buck Showalter, Rick Adair and John Stockstill.
Peterson would not commit to Bundy staying at Single-A Delmarva past next Tuesday, but I don’t read that at all to mean he’s soon bound for Single-A Frederick or even Double-A Bowie. My sense is that he stays at Delmarva at least until he reaches that five-inning mark and maybe longer.
“One of the other big factors with this is the maturing process of acclimating yourself socially to pro baseball. It is a different environment and that is important,” Peterson said.
“Also because we have a six-man rotation here (with Delmarva), we can get on the mound twice between starts and work on our offspeed pitches (in bullpen sessions). It’s not just about pitching in the game, but practicing in the bullpen. Bullpen days are the biggest teaching environment that you have.
“The other day, he had guys trying to cheat to get to 99 (mph) and he recognized that and threw some nice changeups. One lefty batter was way out front. A swing and miss changeup. Just for him to have that one experience was critical.
“If we move him up (now), there is a situation different than here. Because we are in a six-man here, you can protect him here. Once his innings totals per game are less limiting, then, it’s a situation where his outings put less a strain on other pitchers as well.”
By that, he means fewer innings they have to ask the bullpen to cover with Bundy limited to three and four innings. Plus, some of those bullpen innings will be needed when other young pitchers work as well.
There is still plenty for this kid to learn, even while having amazing success. He’s been the buzz of minor league baseball and the O’s organization so far, but I get the sense that he’s going to be with Delmarva for a little while and I have no issues with that.
More later: By the way, this was part of a much longer interview with Peterson discussing Bundy and I’ll publish more of those comments over the next few days at some point.
Click here to see that Bundy ranks No. 1 and Manny Machado No. 11 on Baseball America’s first prospect hot sheet of the new season.