Bundy focused on '21, not free agency

February 18th, 2021

Angels right-hander Dylan Bundy was undoubtedly the club’s ace in 2020, but he is set to be a free agent after the upcoming season. Bundy said Thursday that the club has yet to engage him regarding an extension, and that he’s not focusing on free agency right now.

Bundy, 28, went 6-3 with a 3.29 ERA and 72 strikeouts over 65 2/3 innings in 11 starts with the Angels last year, finishing ninth in the balloting for American League Cy Young Award. He was acquired in a December 2019 trade with the Orioles after five seasons with Baltimore, including making his debut as a 19-year-old in ’12.

"It feels like 10-15 years ago when I debuted in 2012, but then again it flies by, and now I'm going to be in free agency,” Bundy said. “But I don't really look at it as I was late or I missed opportunities or anything like that. This was my journey and I'm happy to live it, so I'm just looking forward to competing this year and helping this team win."

Bundy was a former top prospect who always had breakout potential, but he put it all together with the Angels last year. The move away from the AL East and Camden Yards helped, but he also pitched a bit differently with the Halos, using his offspeed pitches more, especially his slider.

"If anything, it makes you want to work harder," Bundy said of his success in the shortened season. "Just knowing that you've got to make another 20-21 starts on top of what you did last year. So that's really all I'm focused on."

Angels manager Joe Maddon believes Bundy can build on his solid 2020 outing this season while also serving as a leader and mentor to the club’s younger pitchers. Bundy also played with new acquisition Alex Cobb in Baltimore, and the two veterans will be counted on to help out in both the clubhouse and on the mound.

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"The guy just competes," Maddon said of Bundy. "He's a quiet leader. He does it by example. If I was a player in that clubhouse, I'd definitely want to hang out with Dylan Bundy. He's no nonsense and has that quiet sense of humor. He's just a really solid teammate, and he showed me that last year. And I think he's just going to get better now that he has an understanding of how utilize all his stuff."

Angels tidbits

• Outfielder Taylor Ward is already in camp, as the Angels are having him get some work in at catcher to increase his versatility. Ward was originally drafted as a catcher in 2015, but made the move to third base in ’17 before settling in the outfield in ’19. Ward is competing for a spot as an extra outfielder, but Maddon said he’d be more valuable if he can also catch.

• Despite the fact that first baseman Jared Walsh is listed as a two-way player on the club’s Spring Training roster, Maddon said he wasn’t aware of any plans for Walsh to pitch, and he’s not throwing with the pitchers in camp. Walsh last pitched in 2019 in both the Majors and Minors, throwing a combined 18 innings.

• Catcher Max Stassi is coming off left hip surgery and is healthy, but the Angels plan to take it a bit slower with him early in camp as a precaution. Stassi remains the club’s primary catcher, with veteran Kurt Suzuki serving as his backup.

• Right-hander Aaron Slegers, who was acquired in a trade with the Rays on Feb. 9, has experience as both a starter and a reliever, but he is being looked at as a possibility out of the bullpen. Maddon watched him throw on Tuesday, and the 6-foot-10 Slegers reminded the skipper of Chris Young and Jeff Niemann. Maddon said pitchers like Slegers are hard to square up because of the downhill angle of his delivery, and it’s backed up by the data, as Slegers had one of the lowest hard-hit rates in the Majors last year.