Dylan Bundy on long toss, expectations and working with a former MLB catcher

The Orioles selected pitcher Dylan Bundy with the fourth pick in round one of the First-Year Player Draft last June. Now Bundy is beginning his first pro spring training camp this weekend. After signing a major league contract he is on the 40-man roster and reporting with many others to major league camp at Ed Smith Stadium.

Earlier this week,in this story, Bundy talked about his offseason workouts and excitement level about the start of spring camp. During our interview, I asked the 19-year-old right-hander about several other topics not included in that first blog.

For instance, one aspect of Bundy’s pitching that has been speculated about, but I had not read him quoted about much, was his long-toss program. I wanted to find out more about it and what may set Bundy’s program apart from any others.

“I like to stretch it out (the day) after a start and usually two or maybe three times a week,” he said. “I’ll get out to about 320 or 350 feet and I don’t really strain the arm at all. We throw it high to put less stress on the arm, but just kind of get it loose. Once we work it back in, you start throwing more on a line to get the release point back.

“I feel like that is the best way to throw hard and feel good in all your starts. If you throw 30 to 45 minutes of long toss, you should be able to complete a game easy. There are guys like Trevor Bauer (the UCLA pitcher taken one spot ahead of Bundy last June) that, more than you think, that go out that far. My arm doesn’t get sore, maybe due to the punching bag (routine) and other stuff I like to do. That is God-given right there.”

The distance at which Bundy takes part in long toss, at more than 300 feet, is farther than other pitchers who may work somewhere in the 200-foot or so range, maybe more, according to some baseball people I surveyed.

The duration of 30 to 45 minutes is likely longer than most pitchers, however. From what I have heard, Bundy will be fully allowed to continue his long-toss routine with the Orioles, who don’t limit the pitchers as to what distance they can take part in long toss.

One would think that Bundy put up his amazing high school statistics by mostly blowing away hitters with his mid- to upper-90s fastball, a pitch that has reached triple digits on occasion, scouts say. But he said that velocity did not keep him from working some on his secondary pitches.

“We really worked on them more than you would think. Of course the most important games we’d stick to the pitches working and what we were getting hitters out with that day. But if we ever had a big lead, I’d try to mix in a changeup or curveball, even though we didn’t need to throw it in that count. Try to prepare for that next level and I feel we did that in high school,” he said.

Now Bundy will be a marked man every time he pitches. Opponent batters will be motivated to get a hit off him and Orioles fans will be tracking his every boxscore to chart his progress amidst very high expectations for the young man. How will he deal with all the hype and attention?

“I just kind of blow it off,” Bundy said. “I’m a normal guy just trying to get to the big leagues like anyone else. I don’t look at it any special way. I’m sure it may take some getting used to. I haven’t been criticized much by fans in high school. It’s not really a big deal. I think I can handle things like that.”

What about his goals for his first year of pro ball?

“Throw all my innings,” he said. “Be a better pitcher than I was at the beginning of the year. Learn from the different pro hitters I will be facing. Make it through the season healthy and feeling good about what I accomplish this year.”

Scouts have raved about Bundy as the total package in that he has tremendous talent, but also works very hard and has, as they say, great makeup.

But perhaps a lesser known aspect of his career is the fact that Bundy was once coached by a former major league catcher. And not just any catcher, but one that caught 11 Cy Young winners during his big league career.

“Charlie O’Brien, a lot of people know him, he was a catcher that caught Greg Maddux a lot,” Bundy said. “He coached me on a team here in Oklahoma when I was 14. He taught me a lot about the mental part of the game.

“You know, the mental part can be a bigger part than the physical. He taught me how to throw to hitters. What pitch to throw, when to throw it and why I threw it. I might strike a guy out on a changeup after I had just thrown two fastballs. I would come to the dugout excited at 14 years old. He’d get in my face and ask why did I throw that and he always made me understand when to throw the right pitch and how to read hitters. Are they out on their front foot or late on a fastball? I really owe that to him.”

O’Brien caught pitchers like Dwight Gooden, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Roger Clemens. During Maddux’s 1994 and 1995 seasons with Atlanta when he posted ERA’s of 1.56 and 1.63 respectively, O’Brien generally served as Maddux’s personal catcher. Not a bad guy to learn from.

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