Entering the 2014 season, the Baltimore Orioles‘ plan was probably to either have standout pitching prospect Dylan Bundy starting at their Class AAA minor-league affiliate in Norfolk, VA with a call-up to the big club, or if everything went perfectly and Bundy dominated the minor leagues, maybe he’d be ready to be a part of the Orioles on Opening Day.
Instead, Bundy threw a grand total of zero pitches in 2013. Coming off his 2012 campaign that featured a 9-3 record (2.08 ERA, 119 strikeouts in 103.2 innings) in the minor leagues and the briefest of Major League runs (1.2 innings, giving up a hit and a walk, in two appearances in September vs. the Boston Red Sox), Bundy was hoping to build on that in 2013. But pain in his arm in the spring eventually led to Bundy undergoing Tommy John surgery in June for what the Baltimore Sun reported was a partial tear in his elbow.
Such a surgery for a young pitcher like Bundy isn’t the career-killer that some may think it is. Bundy need only look a little bit south at Washington Nationals‘ standout pitcher Stephen Strasburg, who had similar surgery that caused him to throw only 24 innings in his second season (2011). Strasburg has returned to make 58 starts over two seasons, pitching to a 3.16 ERA in 2012 and 3.00 in 2013. Strasburg struck out nearly 200 in both seasons and still had his trademark control.
Bundy won’t turn 22 until after the 2014 season (November). The Orioles can’t expect too much from Bundy this season, and any return he makes (not likely until the summer, at least) is likely to be at the minor-league level. Even if Bundy just makes it to Norfolk this season after all, both Bundy and the organization have to call that a win. Any innings he gets with the Orioles before the season ends, perhaps as a September call-up, would be amazing.
It will likely be 2015 before Orioles’ fans really see what Bundy is all about. But despite his surgery, there’s no reason to give up hope on him. Strasburg serves as an example that young pitchers can come back from Tommy John surgery and be as good (if not better) than before. As long as the Orioles don’t rush him and Bundy is patient with his own recovery, the future is still very bright for Bundy and that may begin to come into greater focus as the 2014 season winds down.