Fresh off playing in the All-Star Futures Game, the Orioles' top two prospects, pitcher Dylan Bundy and shortstop Manny Machado returned to their respective teams to continue on a path that just about everyone suspects will one day take them to Baltimore.
Bundy is 5-2 with an ERA of 1.87 in 15 starts this year between Single-A Delmarva and Single-A Frederick. Over 62 2/3 innings, he has walked 13 and fanned 74 batters with a .165 batting average against.
Bundy gave up just five hits and no earned runs in a stunning performance over 30 innings with Delmarva to start his season and now is 4-2 with an ERA of 3.58 for Frederick in 32 2/3 innings.
Bundy pitched a scoreless fourth inning for Team USA in the Futures Game.
Does he feel like he is making solid progress in Frederick?
"Sure. It's all about consistency and having all three pitches," Bundy said. "Up here in Frederick, you need all three pitches. At Delmarva, all I had to have is a fastball. Like (during my last start) when all I had was a curveball and changeup, it's easier for them to hit the fastball. There are better hitters here. These guys, the second or third time through the order, they can hit a fastball if you don't locate it well.
"Not having the success I had in Delmarva here in Frederick yet. But I am learning every outing. The last outing, I was not throwing the fastball in the zone well like I was in Winston-Salem. But my curveball was back to where it should be."
In his most recent start, on July 4 at Potomac, Bundy gave up six hits and three runs over four innings. His fastball, which can hit the high 90s, was not at some of its usual radar gun readings that game.
"Some days you just don't have the extra on your fastball that can touch 99 every now and then," Bundy said. "I was throwing some more two-seamers trying to induce some ground balls when a guy was on first. That was also why my velo wasn't up to 97 or 99."
He has heard the constant speculation that he could be promoted to Double-A Bowie or maybe even Baltimore later this year, but tries to just block that out and concentrate on his season.
"I just take it in one ear and let it go out the other," he said. "It doesn't mean a lot until it comes true. The fans and media, they have their expectations, but I am just focused on one goal and that is getting to the big leagues. I don't care when it is as long as I get there.
"I know I will be in Frederick until I start dominating like I did in Low-A. I know I can do that, I just have to get the consistency on all my pitches. I am just going to plan on being at Frederick until I start to get more consistent."
Machado is batting .264 with 21 doubles, three triples, seven homers and 48 RBIs for Bowie this year. He has an OPS of .765 in 84 games.
His bat has heated up in recent weeks and in 32 games since June 1, he is batting .283 with five homers and 31 RBIs. Machado went 1-for-3 with a two-run double in the Futures Game.
Machado said he cannot pinpoint any changes or adjustments he has made that led to his recent increased production at Double-A, but his stats have been on the increase.
"There hasn't really been anything different," Machado said. "Just been relaxed at the plate and not trying to do too much. It's a challenge every night, facing new pitchers and trying to win a ballgame. I try to not look at my stats, just that we are now around .500.
"I feel great. I feel healthy and ready to continue my progress."
One factor that seems to have helped Machado improve in the Bowie lineup is the older, more experienced players that have batted around him. Players like Robbie Widlansky and Rhyne Hughes, while having good seasons in their own right, help provide protection for Machado and can help his development there.
"They have been around and they know what to expect. It is a big confidence boost for the young players (to have them in the lineup)," Machado said.
He feels that he was sent to the right level for him this year. In the Eastern League, he began the season as the league's youngest player at just 19.
"It was (a good decision). I've learned a lot of new things and am getting experience that I need to have under my belt," he said.