BALTIMORE -- Four innings and 58 pitches into his start Saturday against the Angels, Dylan Bundy was joined on the mound by pitching coach Doug Brocail for a meeting, the subject of which the right-hander says he did not expect. Bundy had just issued a five-pitch walk to open the fifth inning, the sequence producing what his manager called “a bunch of 87s on the board.”
His back turned to the Oriole Park scoreboard, Bundy says he wasn’t aware of the radar readings, only noting that he “was getting underneath the ball, leaving a lot of fastballs up and way out of the zone.” But the drop in velocity was enough for the Orioles to remove the right-hander 80 pitches into an eventual 7-2 loss to the Angels, due to concern over Bundy’s physical well-being.
“He said he was OK,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “But it just didn’t look right to us.”
Hyde said counselling with head athletic trainer Brian Ebel revealed no obvious cause, and speaking at his locker hours later, Bundy echoed that sentiment. Still, the downtick raised alarms with regard to a pitcher whose fastball once flirted with triple digits.
“Physically I’m fine,” Bundy said. “Overall, my arm feels great.”
To be fair, Bundy hasn’t consistently reached the high 90s since a series of arm injuries checkered his path to the Majors earlier this decade. It’s fallen consistently since he moved full-time to the rotation two years ago, his four-seamer averaging 91 mph this season entering this most recent start. Saturday it fell further, to a single-game career-low average of 89.9 mph, per Statcast. Both the home runs he allowed to Albert Pujols came on 89 mph four-seamers, and Pujols punished them.
Career roundtrippers No. 640 and No. 641 for Pujols accounted for all the runs off Bundy, who was permitted to finish five innings but suffered his fifth loss nonetheless. All told, the outing came in stark contrast to Bundy’s last, when he lived in the 91-92 mph range and stymied the Rays over a season-high 7 1/3 innings.
“He threw the ball really well for seven-plus innings his last start and I thought he threw well from the second inning to the fifth today,” Hyde said. “But I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. I hope not.”
It may be too clear of a line to draw, and at this point, the Orioles are relaying no indication Bundy won’t make his next start. Hyde did float the theory of fatigue, which would seem to be a problem they have in-house answers for. The Orioles had already been considering tinkering with a six-man rotation to help them through their current stretch of 20 games in 20 days; inserting another starter could provide all their others -- Bundy included -- the luxury of extra rest.
Correlation or not, color the club at least mildly concerned. Hyde was apt to note that despite his diminished stuff, Bundy still gave Baltimore more of a chance to win than his opponent Matt Harvey, who languished through four unspectacular innings. The game remained in reach until Gabriel Ynoa coughed up three runs during a sloppy sixth inning, and the offense squandered several scoring chances to waste a first-inning two-run home run from Dwight Smith Jr.
All their struggles at the plate placed the postgame focus on Bundy, who characterized his velocity as a non-issue.
“I wasn’t worried about it. I might look at a few mechanical things,” Bundy said. “I’ll just keep chucking it.”