Dylan Bundy's comeback and recovery from Tommy John surgery takes another step forward later today at 5:05 p.m. when he gets the start for short-season Single-A Aberdeen at Hudson Valley.
Bundy is scheduled to throw around 75 pitches in that game and is slated to then pitch two more times for Aberdeen - at home on June 21 and June 27 - and then we'll see what the next step will be for the 21-year-old right-hander.
His last two starts came at extended spring training and he went four innings. During a press conference this week at Ripken Stadium, Bundy said his arm feels great and that he touched 93 and 94 mph in those outings.
He had a goal of pitching in a minor league game before the June 27 anniversary of his surgery and he will achieve that. Now he wants to continue to regain all his velocity and take another step in the process of getting back to the major leagues.
He is beginning to reach the point where when he pitches he doesn't wonder how his right elbow is responding.
"I don't really think about my arm too much when I'm out there or how it's going to feel the next day. It's kind of like it used to be, my first year in pro ball," he said.
Bundy said he is quite happy with how the Orioles have handled his entire rehab process, which has now been going on for almost an entire calender year.
"It was great, the whole process," he said. "I had (O's minor league medical coordinator) Dave Walker down there with me the whole time. I stayed the whole offseason in Florida and rehabbed the entire time. I can definitely see it paying off now."
I asked Bundy if getting all his velocity back is the final step in getting back to being as good as he was during the 2012 season, when he went 9-3 with an ERA of 2.08 at three minor league levels.
"It is probably a mix of things," he said. "Locating secondary pitches when behind in the count. The velo. I think that is one of the things that comes back last."
But make no mistake. Bundy is convinced he will emerge from all this as a pitcher that is as good if not better than the one that stormed through the O's minors in 2012. That year, he started with Single-A Delmarva and then moved to Single-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie before pitching two games in relief for the Orioles that September.
"Definitely. I feel like I can be the same as I used to be. Just takes time, that's all," he said.
In Aberdeen, his manager will be Matt Merullo, who was also the manager of the O's extended spring training program.
"I can't speak for Dylan, but it's got to be a great feeling to compete again instead of trying to be patient with the process," Merullo said. "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. 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."
While with Aberdeen, Bundy said he would be happy to help any other player on that team, even though many of his IronBirds teammates are older than him.
"I like to help anybody," Bundy said. "It doesn't matter how old they are or what experience they have. Everybody needs a helping hand every now and then. If I can show a guy something, I'll be more than happy to help. There are guys here that can show me something. It works both ways."
Bundy was honest to say that some things have changed for him as he completes his recovery from this surgery. Some of his routines in the future may change and some of his offseason work may change as well.
"There is some different stuff, especially in the offseason that the trainers wouldn't let me do," he said. "I used to never stretch my arm before I pitch. Have the trainer stretch your shoulder and now every bullpen, every game, he stretches me out. Some of the workouts have changed, as far as medicine balls and stuff like that. As far as long toss, I haven't been as far yet and we'll kind of talk about that with the staff later in the offseason."