ABERDEEN, Md. - As the one-year anniversary of his Tommy John surgery approaches, Dylan Bundy's comeback is about to take a significant step forward when he pitches for short-season, Single-A Aberdeen on Sunday at Hudson Valley.
After pitching in several games in Florida at extended spring training, Bundy is about to pitch in a game that counts for the first time since Sept. 25, 2012 when he threw a scoreless inning for the Orioles against Toronto.
He had hoped to make it to a minor league affiliate by June 27, one year to the day when he underwent ligament reconstructive surgery performed by Dr. James Andrews.
"My arm feels great," Bundy said this morning at a Ripken Stadium press conference. "Excited to get back out there and pitch again. They've told me three or four starts (with the IronBirds). We don't know the whole plan yet. I don't really want to know everything with how the whole year will go. We'll just play it by ear each start.
"I was going to be happy to be out here by June 27. Got out of Florida about two weeks early. Definitely excited for that. Can't wait to finally toe the rubber again."
Bundy is confident he will eventually be every bit as good as he was before the surgery. In 2012 he went 9-3 with an ERA of 2.08 at three minor league levels. He ended that year pitching for the Orioles in September.
His mid-to-high 90s velocity is slowly, but surely returning.
"My past two four-inning starts (in extended spring) it was around 90 to 92 (mph) hitting 93, 94 (mph) now and then," Bundy said. "Really the man thing I noticed my last two starts at extended spring was my fastball command was better than the first three starts. That makes me feel a little more confident about it.
"As long as my arm feels good the velocity will take care of itself. They say it takes a while for it to come back fully. That is not really a huge thing for me right now."
Bundy is also feeling positive about his secondary pitches right now like his curveball and changeup.
"Honestly I think they are better now than they were at the end of the year my first year in pro ball when I was in Double-A and got called up," Bundy said. "As far as locating. Maybe not the tightest spin or the depth that I want, but as far as locating I feel a lot better about it."
As the rehab process took Bundy to the point where he was pitching in games in Florida, it was mostly about getting his work in, building arm strength and staying healthy. Now, with these Aberdeen starts, does he begin to focus on the results?
"I don't think so, not yet," Bundy said. "Then again, I'm a competitive guy and I want results. Of course I'll expect the results. But as long as I go out there and pitch my game and come out healthy I'll be happy," he said.
Aberdeen manager Matt Merullo joined Bundy at today's press conference. A former major league catcher, Merullo had three elbow surgeries during his career so he can relate to Bundy and what he's been going through to get to this point.
"It is almost like a celebration you know when you think about the hard work he's put in with Dave Walker and Chris Correnti and the whole medical staff down there," Merullo said. "They'll all be watching closely from afar and really pulling for him. It's a neat feeling when someone gets back out there on the mound."
The Orioles have not publicly laid out the plan for Bundy over the next few weeks and months, but they've also never ruled out the possibility that he could progress fast enough to help the Orioles at the major league level later this year.
Does Bundy think getting to Baltimore this season is realistic?
"That is really not my decision," Bundy said. "But you could say it's realistic. I just want to get through my rehab process healthy and get out there competing again and everything else will take care of itself.
"I have to prove myself again. I want to rush it. But then again, the staff holds me back which I'm thankful for. It's a fine line to not rush it."
Bundy is expected to make that Sunday start on the road at Hudson Valley and then pitch for Aberdeen in the IronBirds' second home game of this season, June 21 at 7:05 p.m. against Brooklyn.