Neal Shaffer: Bundy’s issue demonstrates O’s depth has improved

Let’s get this much out of the way early: Dylan Bundy is probably going to need surgery.

Maybe not right now. It’s possible that the current injury is a minor one and that the platelet-rich plasma injection will do the trick. Given his legendary dedication to fitness, he might not even miss much time.

But let’s be realistic.

Tommy John surgery is an increasingly common occurrence among young pitchers, particularly the kinds of young pitchers who throw as hard as Bundy does. A 2003 USA Today article put the number of major league pitchers who have had the surgery at one-in-nine; a 2012 ESPN article said one-in-seven.

I’d bet on those numbers getting even higher. The human arm isn’t meant to do what guys like Bundy and Stephen Strasburg make it do. Sooner or later, some kind of repair is, if not inevitable, entirely unsurprising.

So let’s just assume that day is coming for Bundy. He’ll be fine in the long run, but in the meantime, the Orioles will be without their best prospect. In years past, that would have been cause for significant alarm. Now, it’s different.

Of the many things Dan Duquette has accomplished since taking over for Andy MacPhail, the most significant is perhaps his dedication to improving organizational depth. For years, the Orioles operated on a shoestring. They had a player or two, they had a handful of prospects, but they had virtually nothing beyond the top level. One bad injury or one guy not living up to expectations, and they were out of options. Unless you count guys like Frank Mata (go ahead, look him up).

Now I look at the potential delay of Bundy’s arrival and I think, “It’s cool, we can wait. Let’s get him healthy and not rush it.” This is mostly because we not only have the pitchers we’ve developed and are continuing to develop (Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, et al), but also guys like Freddy Garcia and Jair Jurrjens - neither of whom is likely to be the difference in a playoff run, but two players with solid track records who can help smooth out the rough edges for sure.

It speaks to the fact that what we’re seeing with the Orioles truly is a fundamental improvement. It’s not just that the guys on the 25-man are winning more games, it’s that the organization itself is finally doing things better. Finally doing things the way a winning organization does them.

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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