Orioles fans who are watching star prospect Dylan Bundy's progress back from Tommy John surgery probably breathed a sigh of relief Aug. 5.
Bundy pitched 4.1 shutout innings for the Frederick Keys Aug. 5, striking out seven and walking none before reaching his 75-pitch limit.
Before we get carried away, I think we need to put a few things in perspective.
First of all, we're talking about Single-A baseball. There's a big jump from the type of hitters you're facing in the Carolina League to the sluggers pitchers are up against in the major leagues.
Second of all, we're talking about a 21-year-old who missed more than a year before making his first start of the season in Aberdeen earlier this summer. The road to recovery from this type of injury cannot be minimized, and the ups and downs of it are to be somewhat expected.
Looking at some of the struggles Bundy had during his first three outings in Frederick, I think you can chalk a lot of that up to not only learning how to pitch with his new arm, but also to getting over the fear of getting hurt again.
Outings where the stats were not good are not necessarily bad outings. I think both the statistics and the lessons learned are important right now.
I was struck by something I read in Ian Oland's piece on WashingtonPost.com.
"You talk to guys who have gone through this surgery before, they all say the same thing: It makes you learn how to pitch," Keys pitching coach Kennie Steenstra told The Washington Post. "He was blessed with an amazing arm in high school, and he had the ability to reach back and blow it by guys. He has to learn how to use his change-up in a hitter's count and pitch a little backwards sometimes."
It's great to hear Steenstra talking about the learning process, but, for me, the most important thing to keep in mind is the importance of thinking about the long term. Despite the promise of Bundy's last three appearances, the Orioles would be wise to not push him too hard or too fast right now.
Even though the club is feeling the pressures of trying to win an American League East crown and advance deep into the playoffs, Bundy is far too valuable a long-term asset for the team to be tempted to use him for some short-sighted goals.
I hope the fact that Bundy was not included in any MLB trade deadline deals is an indication the Orioles are thinking of him as a key part of the club's long-term future.
Instead of rushing him back to the majors and a role in the Orioles' bullpen, the team's much wiser course of action would be to continue allowing him to progress in the controlled environment of minor league baseball.
While it is important for Bundy to come out of 2014 physically sound, it is just as vital that he develop and maintain the utmost confidence in his abilities as he prepares for 2015 and beyond.