With another outstanding start under his belt, Orioles top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy now appears to be closing in on a promotion to a higher level.
His next start will likely be Saturday - and it still could be for Single-A Delmarva - but the Orioles brass is expected to meet soon to discuss if now is the time to promote Bundy.
"Dylan has clearly forced the issue for a point of discussion about, 'Let's talk about the next phase of this.' I think that is coming sooner than later," O's director of pitching development Rick Peterson told MASNsports.com Sunday night.
Bundy threw five shutout innings of one-hit ball Sunday afternoon at Hagerstown in his eighth pro outing. He has now pitched 30 innings for Delmarva allowing two runs that were unearned on just five hits. He has walked two batters and fanned 40. He got his first win today so is 1-0 as his ERA remains 0.00.
"The biggest challenge of all, and we've talked about it a few times, is to get him to use all his pitches," Peterson said. "It's like being the corner guy for Mike Tyson and telling him to stick and jab the first few rounds.
"Rather than speculate, if this is his last start in Delmarva (on Saturday), I'd say more than anything his delivery has been great, his fastball command has been very good. His changeup has been overall really good, although today (Sunday) it went to the warning track and he didn't throw enough changeups and curveballs. It's almost like a case of, 'If I can knock them out, what do you want me to stick and jab for?' That, in itself, is forcing the issue as much as anything else.
"Because we haven't used his off-speed stuff much to get hitters out, the challenge is to have him use those pitches when he really doesn't need to. From a fans standpoint, I think everybody should stand up and clap for this kid and his first few starts in professional baseball."
Peterson said Bundy did not throw many off-speed pitches Sunday. Is that a concern?
"Overall, until today's (Sunday's) game, I've been really fine the way things have worked out," Peterson said. "But today's game, there was a low percentage, only about two or three curveballs and two or three changeups out of 50 pitches. But he did only have 50 pitches in five innings. That's awesome.
"It is a double-edged sword when you are developing someone that is overpowering everybody. Yet, you want them to develop the offspeed pitches that they will need as they climb the ladder."
Peterson indicated that the O's brass could convene early this week to discuss Bundy's immediate future.
"Dylan Bundy has forced the issue for discussion of what's the next chapter of his career. There is no question about that. For me personally, I am now going to force the issue to have discussions with Dan (Duquette), Buck (Showalter) and everybody involved to discuss this. I am open for him to start the next phase, the next chapter of his journey to the big leagues," Peterson said.
Peterson indicated that he feels Bundy should not skip a level and that the next move would include a promotion to Single-A Frederick.
"Why go from your freshman year to your junior year? My question to people that would debate the other side of the coin would be that question," Peterson said. "What is the hurry? We are talking a 19-year-old pitcher here that has talent off the charts. What would be the reason (for skipping Frederick)? I can't think of one."
But what if Carolina League hitters prove to be little or no challenge to Bundy?
"OK, if he goes there for one or two starts, let's find out," Peterson said. "What is the downside of one, two, three, four, six or eight starts to find out? I am over-conservative when dealing with pitchers, in every aspect of development and protection of health, I am overly conservative.
"I have been in many offices where general managers and the powers that be have said, 'Rick, you overprotect these guys.' I'm guilty, you are right. They can come back, 'Rick, these are our horses.' You are right and they are Secretariats and not Mr. Eds. So let's treat them like Secretariat, who was pretty special."
Peterson is aware of the criticism the Orioles have gotten by some fans and media in how they have handled Bundy.
"I would only be concerned with (criticism from) someone who has greater expertise in developing young pitchers to come to the big leagues. Someone who has that experience being critical, I'd love to hear the criticism. Over the years, the track record of bringing pitchers to the big leagues in my career has been pretty successful. Based on that, we are going to do the right thing," he said.
I asked Peterson if he felt the organization was open to Bundy advancing to Double-A Bowie - or even possibly beyond - later this season?
"You know what? I believe in limitless potential and Dylan Bundy right now has, I think, gone way beyond everyone's expectations with how well he has done," Peterson said. "What he has done is off the charts.
"I put no limits on Dylan Bundy. If he takes the next step and does the same thing after, you know, a period of time, you say, 'OK, you're ready for your junior year.' He hasn't even taken a full year to go through his freshman year, or will not. It may take him a full year to go through his sophomore year, but let's find out first."
Click here to read the story on Bundy's outing Sunday and his postgame quotes from the Hagerstown paper.