Bundy named Angels' Opening Day starter

Southpaw Heaney will also pitch during first series vs. White Sox

March 15th, 2021

The order of the Angels' rotation is yet to be determined, but one official item was settled Monday: Dylan Bundy will get the Opening Day nod against the White Sox at Angel Stadium on April 1.

Manager Joe Maddon announced the news to reporters prior to the Angels’ game with the Reds on Monday.

“He’s very pleased about it,” Maddon said. “We’re excited about doing that. And he went out yesterday and showed all the different reasons why we thought that, and so he’s going to rock and roll that first game.”

Maddon informed Bundy about the decision just before the pitcher took the mound against the Cubs on Sunday. Bundy held the Cubs scoreless through 4 2/3 innings, allowing two hits. For the spring, he’s worked 6 2/3 scoreless frames, allowing two hits across two starts. 

This will be Bundy’s second Opening Day start. He first received the honors in 2018 while with the Orioles. 

“There's 30 teams and there’s 30 Opening Day starters, so it's definitely an honor and it humbles you,” Bundy said. “Not many people get that opportunity. You’ve just kind of got to cherish it and basically go out there and treat it like an everyday start and compete. That's really all you can do.” 

A good spring can’t hurt a pitcher’s chances in terms of Opening Day honors, but in Bundy’s case, that didn't drive Maddon’s decision. Bundy had a strong year in 2020, posting a 3.29 ERA and 1.04 WHIP over 11 starts. Maddon also likes the matchup with Bundy and the White Sox lineup, which is mostly right-handed.

 “That was part of it. Part of it is how well he has done, what he looks like this spring, all of that,” Maddon said, adding that Andrew Heaney will also pitch in the first series. “Dylan is really demonstrating a kind of leadership role among the staff, and a consistency. I think that's probably the best way to describe him. As we line up the rest of them, all six, the word 'trust' pops in my head -- trust them all.”

Opening Day starts are a part of the pageantry of a new season, and managers understand that getting the nod to take the mound for game No. 1 is a significant honor for the pitcher who earns it. But everyone in uniform, including the pitcher, knows there’s more involved when filling out a rotation order than just Opening Day.

Maddon tasked the Angels’ analytical department with examining all of April to determine “how the whole month shakes out.” Opponent matchups can be scrutinized far ahead of time, and the right decisions in that respect can make a difference. That will be a factor when the Angels line up the rest of the rotation.

“It's not just about the first time through once this thing gets rolling,” Maddon said. “It's an honor always [to be the] first starting pitcher to get the nod. I get that. But after that, you're after the last guy in the rotation, and it's your turn [again]. So I did ask for that.”

Bundy echoed similar sentiments when addressing the significance of an Opening Day start.

“I like to think everybody is the number one on the day they pitch,” he said. “It doesn't really matter the order once the season gets going. You’ve just got to go out there and compete each and every game whenever it's your turn to pitch."

Maddon lauded Bundy as a leader on the pitching staff, one who sets a tone with how he prepares more than what he says out loud.

“You don't want to let him down because you know he's so prepped,” Maddon said. “If you're playing behind him, this is one of those dudes that you really get into it because you know what he's all about. You know his preparation; you know how much he cares and that no-nonsense approach that he has.”

Maddon described Bundy as having “this quiet, stoic method” and someone who doesn’t talk just for the sake of talking. When he does speak up, the words carry significant weight. That can resonate with a team -- and a rotation -- in transition.

“When he says something, it’s got some pertinence to it,” Maddon said. “And I think players have already figured that out. If he smiles -- my goodness, it must have been a great joke.”