Dylan Bundy is on his way back to being Dylan Bundy. That’s great news for the Orioles, as the 21-year-old right-hander was the game’s top pitching prospect heading into last season. He underwent Tommy John surgery in June.
Bundy’s story is well-known. Drafted fourth overall in 2011, out of an Oklahoma high school, his work ethic and training regimen were front-page news. So was his mid-to-high-90s fastball. He made just 23 professional appearances before reaching Baltimore late in the 2012 season. One year ago this month, his elbow began to ache.
Bundy continues to progress. Exactly when he’ll be game-ready is unknown, but a mid-summer return seems likely. Bundy talked about his injury status, and how he approaches the game, just over one week ago.
Bundy on his rehab status: “I’m about 8.5 months out. You can’t pinpoint exactly when you’re going to be on the mound, or when you’re going to throw in a game. That’s pretty hard to determine, even if you don’t have any setbacks. But I’m up to 180 feet. Throwing good, arm feels great. Hopefully I’ll soon be moving on to the half mound, and then progressing to the full mound.
“I’m not throwing extremely hard like I did in the past, for stuff like long toss, but my arm feels good. It’s partly the team holding me back and also my arm strength not being where it was pre-injury. That takes time and you can’t really rush time. You have to wait for it. I don’t want to rush things by trying to throw too hard, and have do this whole thing all over again.”
On his current workout routine: “[Rehabbing], you do a lot more shoulder exercises you probably hadn’t done in the past. That’s true for me. I hadn’t done a lot of the exercises I’ve been doing since surgery. The throwing progression …I think it’s going great.
“As far as lifting, running, conditioning, sprinting — a lot of that hasn’t changed much, except I don’t do as much upper body. I kind of hold back as much as I can. I don’t want to get too tight in my upper body and cause a change in my arm angle, and have to… or I get sore in a different area in my upper body. I don’t go as heavy as I used to, and take it easy after a while.”
On long toss: “I’ve always been [into long toss], but never as much as Trevor Bauer. I maybe went out as far as him a couple of times, right before I got into the game, but never consistently. I don’t really know how much of an advocate I am now, relative to pre-injury. We’ll see how my arm reacts to long toss when I start throwing in games.
“Workout-wise, I think I was pretty solid. I don’t think I’d have changed any of that. I did do some things differently mechanically. That may have led to my surgery. I don’t really know.”
On mechanical changes: “We were trying to get my arm in a higher position. They say your arm needs to be at a certain angle when your foot makes contact, and mine was at a lower angle. We tried to change that a little bit. I got my hands moving… really, I just got away from the things I did in high school. I changed throughout the course of my first full minor league season. and I don’t think I should have.
“That’s the only thing I really regretted — changing those minor things my first year in pro ball. I should have stuck to what I did best. I should have just picked up a ball and thrown it. I’m a big believer in that; pick up a ball and throw it. If that’s how you throw, don’t change it.”
On his repertoire: “Right now, in my rehab progression — again, I’m only 8.5 months out — I’m just throwing four-seams. The other day I threw a couple two-seams just to change the grip. It’s still a fastball, you’re not doing anything with your arm or your wrist. We’re not going to start doing any curveballs, cutters, or changeups until I get on a full mound. That should be in about three or four weeks. When healthy, my repertoire is fastball, cutter, curveball and change.
“[In the minors] they had me really focus on my curveball and changeup. I didn’t have a decent changeup, because I didn’t throw one much in high school. I didn’t know when to throw it, or how to throw it, so we started working on it. We also worked on my curveball. We set aside my cutter while we did that.”
On arm speed and grips: “I don’t do the circle change. I kind of just widen my fingers like a fastball. On my fastball I keep my fingers closed, and on my changeup I widen them a little bit. There’s about an eight- or nine-MPH difference in velocity. Maybe seven.
“With my curveball, arm speed is the main thing. That’s how it is with every pitch. You don’t want to slow your arm down, or your body down, whether you‘re in the windup or out of the stretch. You want to keep everything like your fastball. The fastball is going to be your go-to pitch, so I try to throw everything with the same arm speed.
“I throw the same curveball I did in high school. I just get off to the side of the ball — the side of the horseshoe — and keep the same arm speed as my fastball. When my arm speed is the same, that‘s when I‘m at my best.”
On developing as a pitcher: “In low-A, I was throwing mainly fastballs and a couple of changeups every now and then. I was mostly just throwing the ball. In High-A, I needed to pitch a bit. Once I got to [Double-A] Bowie, I really had to pitch. I finally figured out how to learn some stuff, like reading batters better. When I got called up to the big leagues, I didn’t get to pitch a whole lot, because I came out of the bullpen and only got to face a couple batters.
“You can still say I’m a power pitcher. I consider myself one, but you don’t know how long you’re going to be a power pitcher. It depends on how your arm works and how your body responds. I’m learning more about my body, how I go about workouts, and how my arm is feeling.”
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