Dylan Bundy: Progress In The Work
Dylan Bundy's prodigious talent is almost freaky, but it's a family-instilled work ethic that has him poised for greatness
By Dave Lomonico
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When they were in high school, Bradley and Bundy lived together for two summers while they were training at the Dallas Baseball Academy in Texas. The two touted pitching prospects were there to work, but every once in a while, Bundy would do something crazy to make his friend laugh.
One time, Bradley went out for the night and left Bundy home alone. When Bradley returned the next morning, he found his friend standing outside in nothing but his underwear.
"Evidently he went outside to get something, but somehow the front door shut behind him, and he got locked out," Bradley said. "So for the next three hours until I got home, he was running around in his underwear trying to get the neighbors to help him out. It was hilarious."
Bundy and his old coach Turner still text each other about once per week, and Turner said Bundy's teammates were mainly drawn to his modesty and thoughtfulness.
"When those deadly tornadoes rolled through Oklahoma [in 2011], he came up to me and said, 'What if we get the team together, get some toothpaste and diapers, make a care package, and take it out to the families?' " Turner said. "That's the kind of person Dylan Bundy is -- never tooting his own horn.'"
Soon after graduating from Owasso, Bundy and Bradley, plus a small group of their families and friends, sat in a hotel room to watch MLB Network's live draft coverage. Bundy had heard inklings the Orioles might select him, but he was still shocked when commissioner Bud Selig announced his name with the fourth overall pick.
A couple of minutes later, former Orioles scouting director Joe Jordan, who is also from Oklahoma, shot Bundy a text congratulating him.
"Last year's draft was very strong at the top," said Jordan, who now works for the Phillies. "Probably any of the first seven or eight picks could have gone No. 1. But if we had the No. 1 pick, there's a very good likelihood Dylan would have been our guy. … We thought he was the best talent in the draft."
Bundy said he was just glad to be part of the same organization as his brother.
"Having the potential to pitch in the same rotation as Bobby was the first thing I thought of when they called my name," Bundy said. "We're competitive, but we're also very close. It would be awesome to pitch with him."
These days, Bobby plays a pseudo-Crash Davis role, advising his brother about the rigors of professional baseball. Not only do the two talk about pitching, but they also discuss everything from Oklahoma to in-season training to life as a minor leaguer.
Bundy, whose only indulgence so far has been a Ford F-150 Platinum, called the daily routine great, but said it had been difficult adjusting to eight-hour bus rides, pitching on just a few hours of sleep and finding a Whole Foods on the road.
Moreover, the process of becoming a pitcher -- as opposed to just rearing back and firing heat -- has taken some getting used to. When Bundy was in Delmarva, he threw 30 innings, didn't allow a single earned run, struck out 40 and walked two. Opposing batters hit .053 off of him.
"In Delmarva, there weren't any hitters who could get to his fastball," said Rick Peterson, Orioles director of pitching development. "What Dylan understands is that he needs to incorporate [off-speed] pitches into his repertoire. It's like telling Mike Tyson he needs to stick and jab for three rounds, when he could knock a guy out in 30 seconds. But KOing a guy in 30 seconds doesn't help you with the technical things you need to truly get better."
Two of Bundy's key attributes, according to Peterson, are his dedication to improving and his acceptance of criticism, both of which can be difficult when fans, writers and talking heads heap naught but praise this early during his career.
But Peterson, who has helped mold the likes of Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter and Barry Zito, said Bundy was a film-room junkie, who constantly studied his delivery. He also breaks down opposing pitchers and questions why they throw certain pitches in different situations. On top of that, when the Orioles organization identified a few delivery tweaks and adjustments to his changeup, Bundy actively worked to accommodate them.
"He was very receptive to it all," Peterson said. "As soon as the reports came back, he sat down, looked at the DVD and we started making adjustments."
When asked to compare himself with another pitcher, Bundy didn't have an answer.
"I'm constantly working on my mechanics, and I know I'm going to need my off-speed pitches the higher up I go, too," Bundy said. "Being a hard thrower, it's kind of difficult to mix in a changeup when hitters can't get to your fastball. But you really have to work on throwing off-speed pitches in fastball counts to be successful."
Even though Bundy rolled through low-A ball, there will be days when he struggles. During his second start for Frederick, he surrendered four runs and walked two in 3.2 innings, his worst outing as a professional.
Peterson said that as a high school pitcher, Bundy was probably never knocked around in his life. So the question then becomes, how will Bundy mentally respond when he inevitably has a string of subpar outings?
"You really do find out a person's true colors with what they do when they face that adversity," Beatty said. "But with Dylan, seeing his makeup, I have no doubt in my mind he'll respond well. He is confident in himself and mature beyond his years."
It helps that Bundy doesn't seem to dwell on much of anything, which is essential for a sport in which failing seven times out of 10 can get you into the Hall of Fame. Ted Williams, who had a Hall of Fame career with the Boston Red Sox, once said, "If you don't think too good, don't think too much."
When Bundy's on the mound, he erases his mind. He said he didn't think about expectations, his contract, opposing fans' taunts or the last batter to get a hit off him.
"Maybe, for most people, it's tough to deal with all that stuff," Bundy said. "But for me, I can just take it and put it out of my head."
Bundy didn't talk about when he might make his major-league debut, but if he continues to progress, he might be in an Orioles uniform before the end of the 2013 season, according to talent projectors.
Some, like Peterson, think Bundy is big league ready right now. But he has to continue mastering the mental parts of the game, namely dealing with those bus rides and bouncing back from bad outings.
"Failure is a great learning platform," Palmer said. "Maybe if I wouldn't have hurt my arm early in my career, I wouldn't have realized the talents I did have. Sometimes you have to fail in order to get better."
But no one is going to compare Bundy to Palmer just yet. That would be a little too presumptuous -- sort of like striking out the last batter during Game 7 of the World Series.
Unless, that is, the coldhearted realities of pitching in the majors never do settle in.
"Dylan Bundy can be as good as he wants to be," Peterson said. "He has limitless potential."
Issue 175: July 2012