SAN FRANCISCO -- Dylan Bundy is ready to take on the big league challenge.
The fourth player taken in the 2011 Draft, the right-hander from Oklahoma, is healthy.
And the timing couldn't be better for the Orioles.
Used sparingly in relief to start the season, Bundy was finally inserted into the Orioles rotation after the All-Star break, and he has settled in well. With 5 2/3 solid innings in the Orioles' 5-2 victory against the Giants at AT&T Park on Friday night, Bundy won for the third time in as many starts, giving the Orioles rotation the kind of lift it needs for Baltimore to continue in its quest for an American League playoff spot.
• Bundy takes his first professional at-bats
It's what the Orioles had hoped for since they signed Bundy in 2011, but had started to fear they might never see.
He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012, forcing him to miss the 2013 season, and then pitched a combined total of 63 1/3 innings the last two seasons, and was a combined 1-6. He was shut down midseason a year ago because of a calcium buildup and tendinitis in the right shoulder, and then again in the Arizona Fall League with right forearm tightness.
So when the Orioles decided to keep him out of Spring Training this year, they did it with care. He was spotted out of the bullpen, allowing him to build up arm strength, before finally getting to move into the rotation in mid-July. He never did pitch on back-to-back days and was limited to 22 appearances before going into the rotation July 17.
The Orioles were in a pennant race, but had problems with a rotation that, at the All-Star break, ranked eighth in the AL in victories and 12th in ERA.
"Our ownership has shown he will allow us to add a little something to compete, but we didn't feel there was a better deal we could make than adding Dylan to the rotation," manager Buck Showalter said. "We knew we had to get to the All-Star break to start him because we wanted to finish the year with him in the rotation.
"We wanted to shorten him up on the front end [of the season], not the back end."
It's working out fine for the Orioles. No other AL East team ran off from the pack in the first half of the season, and then, in addition to the emergence of Bundy, the Orioles also beat the Aug. 1 non-wavier Trade Deadline with the acquisition of Wade Miley from the Mariners. And Kevin Gausman, who starts in Saturday's game against the Giants, has a quality start in four of his last five appearances.
The most encouraging effort, however, has come from Bundy.
He shut down the Giants on Friday night with basically just a fastball. His curve and split-finger were liabilities. He faced one major challenge, but handled it impressively. After Denard Span doubled home the Giants' initial run in the third and Ángel Pagán drew a walk, Bundy faced Brandon Belt, and got him to ground into an inning-ending double play.
"I like the fact he pitched a little," said Showalter. "He didn't have a feel for his curveball, and his changeup was not quite [there]. They like to say, the good ones, if they have [command of] one pitch they can complete, with two they win, with three they dominate.
"It was good to see him compete and figure it out. He knew what he had to do."
He allowed just one run on three hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings to run his record to 3-0 in August. He has allowed only three earned runs in 18 2/3 innings in those starts, and on Friday night he pitched the Orioles back into first place in the AL East, a half-game in front of Toronto.
For the Orioles it's a real big deal.
How big? Well, he's 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA in this month and has becoming a stabilizing factor for a rotation that is rebounding from first-half struggles and is 7-5 with a 2.71 rotation ERA in August.
"We needed a lift," said general manager Jim Duquette.
And Bundy has given the Orioles just that.