A look at some changes with Dylan Bundy’s bullpen role (plus minors updates)

The Orioles have made an adjustment in how they plan to use rookie right-hander Dylan Bundy out of their bullpen. The plan going forward is to have Bundy work with more rest between games and pitch longer outings.

If you look at his last five appearances, he pitched May 24 with one day of rest, May 27 with two days’ rest, May 31 with three days’ rest, June 4 with three days’ rest and June 9 with four days’ rest in between appearances.

Over his first 14 games this year, Bundy pitched two innings or more four times. Now he has done that in three straight outings. In 17 games, Bundy is 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA. Over 26 innings, he has allowed 36 hits with nine walks, 16 strikeouts and a .340 batting average against.

bundy-throwing-sidebar.jpgManager Buck Showalter said over the weekend in Toronto that Bundy getting more rest recently was not just because it happened to work out that way.

“That is by design,” Showalter said. “He might come in and have to pitch an inning (with less rest) here and there. We do his innings every day about where we want to get him and how we’re going to get there but we also try to win a game.

“Now he can’t pitch two or three innings if the other team doesn’t let you. But if he pitches well, we can extend him in there. It has worked out well. We keep a close eye on it.”

Bundy’s most recent outing - on four days’ rest - was one of his best. He pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings Thursday at Rogers Centre and got the win. He allowed no runs and one hit (on a bunt) with three strikeouts. He touched 97 mph on the radar gun several times and struck out Josh Donaldson looking at a 97 mph heater.

Bundy said it was nice to see the increased velocity, but that is not the most important thing.

“Lot of people have told me it was up a click or two (Thursday) night,” Bundy said. “I think it has come up one or two miles per hour since early April. I think that is just getting my arm strength back to where it used to be.

“I think locating 94 (mph) is better than not locating 97 (mph), especially at this level. Those guys can hit 97. If I can get the command and a couple more miles per hour, that is great. But if not, I’ll settle for commanding 94 better.”

On Friday in Toronto, Showalter said this of Bundy: “We are hopefully going to get 60 to 75 innings out of him (this season) and be ready to go next year. The big thing we have to decide is if and when about adding his slider/cutter back. That may be next spring.”

Right now, Bundy is not throwing the slider/cutter after he felt that specific pitch led to arm issues during the Arizona Fall League. The Orioles asked Bundy also to not use the pitch during the 2012 minor league season. It was done then in part to have him throw his curve and changeup more to improve those pitches. He did that during a 2012 season when he pitched at three minor league levels and was called up to Baltimore for two September games. Bundy told me recently for this story that this time the decision to scrap the cutter/slider for now was his call.

The Orioles’ biggest concern with Bundy, is of course, health. He had Tommy John surgery on June 27, 2013. Last year, just when Bundy seemed to be fully recovered from that procedure, he developed a rare shoulder issue that limited him to 22 innings with Double-A Bowie. The Orioles need Bundy available to pitch and healthy this year, and will do whatever they need to do to get him through this season in good health.

“With Dylan, I’m not going to start pitching him back-to-back,” Showalter said. “Keep our priorities in mind with him. Not going to put him in harm’s way. Can’t get our heart ahead of our brain. Can’t think of anything worse than him not getting through the year physically. We are not going to take that chance.”

If 70-75 innings is the top end for Bundy this year, there is almost no way the Orioles could move him into the starting rotation - at least not this year. Fans have often asked about that, but he just doesn’t have enough available innings for that. He could maybe make a spot start or two later this summer, but anything beyond that seems very, very unlikely.

So for now, the plan is for Bundy to get longer outings spread out with several days of rest in between. The quality and velocity of his pitches both seem better with the extra rest.

“Oh, yeah,” Showalter said. “His best outings have actually been on four days’ rest, if you look at it. Like a starter. But I’ve said, you can’t carry a guy in the bullpen in the American League East that doesn’t pitch. That doesn’t work.

“He’s handled it well. He’s been a part of the solution. He’s getting better. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that next spring, you’re going to like what you see. If we get through this year on the current plan.”

On the farm Monday: Triple-A Norfolk (22-43) beat Charlotte 4-1. In his third rehab outing, O’s right-hander Yovani Gallardo gave up a leadoff homer in the first inning and then no hits or runs after that, pitching five innings for the Tides. Gallardo retired 15 of the last 17 batters he faced, issuing two walks in that stretch. He threw 90 pitches, 52 for strikes, and is expected to pitch at home Saturday for the Orioles against Toronto.

L.J. Hoes hit a solo homer in the seventh to break a 1-1 tie. In relief of Gallardo, Zach Phillips, Chaz Roe and Oliver Drake combined to pitch four scoreless innings for Norfolk on one hit. Drake recorded his seventh save.

Single-A Frederick (33-31) beat Myrtle Beach 7-3 to win its fourth straight and improve to two games over .500 for the first time. Lucas Long gave up just one run and four hits over six innings to get the win and is 4-4 with a 3.88 ERA. Michael Zouzalik pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to pick up his eighth save and lower his ERA to 2.18.

Single-A Delmarva (36-26) beat Kannapolis 3-1. Francisco Jimenez got the win, pitching six innings allowing four hits and one unearned run. Garret Cleavinger picked up a three-inning save. He has three saves and an ERA of 1.43. Ryan Mountcastle, named South Atlantic League Player of the Week on Monday, hit a two-run home run, his fourth. DJ Stewart, Ademar Rifaela and Drew Turbin all joined Mountcastle with multi-hit efforts. The Shorebirds collected 11 hits in all, but only Mountcastle’s homer went for extra bases. Delmarva is in third place, three games behind with seven games remaining in the first half. The win was the 400th career victory for Delmarva manager Ryan Minor.

Double-A Bowie (27-36) had Monday off. The Baysox open a three-game series against Portland tonight at Prince George’s Stadium. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is expected to play for Bowie on a minor league rehab assignment. Click here for more on that.

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