Dylan Bundy: Orioles Brilliant to Call Up Pitching Phenom for Playoff Push

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 19, 2012

Courtesy of Associated Press
Courtesy of Associated Press

In a move that fans have been calling for since the season started, the Baltimore Orioles are calling up Dylan Bundy, the top pitching prospect in baseball. All this according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

BREAKING: #Orioles, in need of a fresh arm following their 18-inning victory, have promoted their top pitching prospect, Dylan Bundy, 19.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 19, 2012

Before the season started, I would have told you that there is no rhyme or reason for the Orioles to even think about bringing Bundy up. Starting his arbitration clock before they got into contention, regardless of how ready he might be, made no sense. 

A funny thing happened along the way: The Orioles became contenders and are tied with the New York Yankees for first place in the American League East with two weeks left to go in the regular season. 

I don't know how they are doing it, as their starting rotation leaves a lot to be desired, and they are winning far more close games than you would think possible, but to see them go for it by bringing up a potentially game-changing arm for the stretch run is absolutely the right call. 

When the Orioles selected Bundy with the No. 4 pick in the 2011 draft, it was widely believed that he would not need a lot of time to develop. Even though he was a high schooler, his stuff and command were so advanced that he was being thought of as one of the best high school arms in the history of the draft. 

Even though he doesn't have a prototypical workhorse frame—listed at 6'1", 195 pounds—his stuff is electric. His fastball explodes out of his hand and sits in the mid-90s. He has good feel for a curveball and changeup. 

Bundy's best pitch, the cutter, was actually taken away from him this season, because, as pitching coach Rick Peterson said, they felt it would hurt the development of his off-speed pitches. 

Bundy began the season on a strict innings limit, which ESPN's Jerry Crasnick wrote was 125 in a profile of the star pitcher that ran earlier this year. 

After moving three levels this season, Bundy has logged 103.2 innings so far this season, giving the Orioles 21.1 to play with over the final two weeks of the regular season and, potentially, the postseason. 

By the way, in those 103.2 innings, Bundy recorded 119 strikeouts and gave up just 67 hits, 28 walks and six home runs with an ERA of 2.08.

The smart move would be to have Bundy get his feet wet with a one-inning appearance here and there right out of the gate, then turn him loose for two or three innings at a time when he gets comfortable. 

This would be a similar strategy employed by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2008 with David Price, who was a vital part of the bullpen when they went to the World Series. 

Plus, Bundy will only be up for 14 days, so it will have a minimal effect on his arbitration clock. The team can still start him in the minors next season if they don't feel he is ready or if he struggles in his brief run with the team this season. 

The reward for the Orioles calling up Bundy far outweighs the risk. If he hits, they get a valuable arm to help carry them to the postseason for the first time in 15 years. If he doesn't, they don't have to pitch him. 

The minor league season is over, so it is not like he is going to miss out on any development time if he doesn't get into more than a few games over the next 14 days. 

When a team is in the midst of a playoff race, it has to be willing to take chances to put itself over the top. The Orioles were willing to do it last month when they needed a third baseman and brought up Manny Machado. 

They are doing the same thing with their pitching staff by calling up Bundy. Time will tell if the move ends up working, but it is absolutely the right call for the franchise at exactly the right time.