After 30 innings without allowing an earned run in the South Atlantic League, beginning tonight Carolina League hitters will take their shot at Orioles top pitching prospect Dylan Bundy.
Bundy will make his debut at Single-A Frederick when the Keys host the Salem Red Sox at 6 p.m. at Harry Grove Stadium. The Keys say an over-capacity crowd is expected and fans are encouraged to arrive early.
Earlier this week, O's director of pitching development Rick Peterson talked about Bundy's promotion from Delmarva to Frederick.
"Dylan has performed off the charts," Peterson said. "He has a strike ratio that is off the charts. The strike ratio of his changeup is 80 percent. He needs to use it more. The strike ratio of his fastball is tremendous. You are talking about a dominating power pitcher that is developing a major league changeup and learning how to command his breaking ball. Now we are ready to go to the next stage of this."
I asked Peterson how many starts we can expect to see Bundy make with Frederick?
"It will be a segment of starts," Peterson said. "He has eight starts thus far so we'll have a series of starts here and see how he develops. The higher up he goes he'll have to throw his changeup behind in the count for a strike. Throw a first-pitch curveball for a strike. It's a development phase and not just about dominating a team with fastballs. He overmatched the hitters with pure power (so far) but no pitcher in the big leagues can dominate a lineup with pure power.
"There will be a level, we don't know where that level will be, whether it's Frederick or not, where Dylan can no longer just go out there and knock you out with a dominating fastball. In Delmarva the hitters could not get on his fastball."
That is for sure as Bundy gave up just five hits over 30 innings with the Shorebirds and the league hit just .053 against him. Left-handed hitters so far are 2-for-42 against the O's 2011 top draft pick and right-hander batters are just 3-for-52. He has allowed two doubles and three singles.
Peterson said Bundy is now in a stretch of multiple starts that will be five-inning outings and, "then roughly in about six or seven weeks he'll be in a place innings-wise where he can go 100 pitches or so and get as deep into the game as he can," Peterson said.
Peterson sometimes uses Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers, as comparison to Bundy and his pitching style and said that Verlander developed a changeup which was a real difference maker for him at the big league level. The O's want Bundy to improve his changeup now as he works his way up the minor league ladder.
After Bundy's last start, on Sunday at Hagerstown, there seemed to be some talk that he didn't throw his offspeed pitches enough in that game. I asked Peterson what percentage of non-fastballs would they like to see Bundy throw?
"I'd say somewhere in the 20, 25, 30 percent ratio roughly," Peterson said. "There will be a time when hitters will get on his fastball. We don't know where that will be. It may Frederick, it may be Bowie, it may be Norfolk.
"It will definitely be in the big leagues. There is not one pitcher in the big leagues that can solely just overpower hitters. As he develops and will get to a level where people can get on his fastball, he needs the weapons to defend himself with changeups and breaking balls. He's developing a plus major league changeup and he has a plus major league curveball. Now he needs to command those pitches."
Salem could present a challenge to Bundy. The Red Sox have the best record in the Carolina Leauge at 26-18 and beat Frederick 13-2 last night. The Red Sox lead the league batting .280 as team, are second in runs scored and first in the circuit in on-base percentage.
No South Atlantic League team could get more than a double or any earned run off Bundy. Salem is the first Carolina League squad to get a shot and it's tonight in Frederick.
Coverage from Frederick: I will be at tonight's game to provide updates here and on Twitter this afternoon and evening so check back here later today for coverage of Bundy's Frederick debut.