Less than a year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, Dylan Bundy looks better than ever.
The Orioles' top prospect recorded a career-high nine strikeouts and allowed two hits over five scoreless innings Saturday before short-season Aberdeen dropped a 3-1, 11-inning decision to visiting Brooklyn.
Bundy also walked one batter while facing two over the minimum in his second rehab start for the IronBirds. He retired the first nine batters before yielding a leadoff single in the fourth to Tucker Tharp. Four of the final five outs Bundy recorded were strikeouts.
"Fastball command, I was hitting corners," he said. "I still have things to work on, but I'm happy with it. First two innings, I felt like I was able to throw the fastball anywhere I wanted to. I just need to be able to that in the fourth, fifth, sixth, whenever.
"I was happy with my changeup today; it had some movement on it. This whole rehab progression, it's been pretty straight."
The 21-year-old right-hander had his pitching elbow surgically repaired on June 27, 2013 and missed all of last season. He returned to the mound last Sunday and gave up a run on five hits over five innings, taking the loss against Hudson Valley.
"Just how I feel at the end of the outing, if I'm tired or sore and so far I haven't been," Bundy said. "So far, I'm happy with the whole rehab assignment; it's worked out real well so far. I feel like I'm competing the way I used to. I'm going at batters with the fastball and not throwing them the soft stuff. Competing-wise, I feel like I'm my old self."
Bundy, who pitched in two big league games with the Orioles in September 2012, is slated to make one more New York-Penn League appearance but isn't sure what will happen at the end of his assignment.
"I take the rehab assignment as the rehab progression and after that I feel like I'm just another Minor Leaguer or big leaguer," MLB.com's No. 17 overall prospect said. "Whatever happens happens. I can't control that. Once the rehab assignment is done, then the rehab is done. After that, it's time to earn a spot. I'm just going to keep doing my work and see what happens."
Over 10 innings, Bundy has given up a run and seven hits while recording 15 strikeouts. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 Draft started his Minor League career with Class A Delmarva and had never pitched in the New York-Penn League before.
"I didn't know what to expect," he said, "I just expected to go out there and compete, throw all the pitches the way I throw them and everything takes care of itself."
Bundy had notched eight strikeouts in a game three times, most recently on Aug. 3, 2012 while pitching for Class A Advanced Frederick.
Nik Nowottnick took over in the sixth and tossed 2 1/3 hitless innings. Stefan Crichton (1-1) was tagged with the loss after surrendering three runs -- two earned -- on two hits in the 11th.
Cyclones starter Marcos Molina was almost as dominant as Bundy, fanning five and yielding two hits over seven scoreless innings. Juan Urbina (1-0) pitched a hitless frame for the win and Shane Bay picked up his third save, despite allowing a run on two hits in the bottom of the 11th.
Michael Bernal and Jhon Ureana each drove in a run for Brooklyn.