Dylan Bundy finally cracked Tuesday night under the pressure of the home crowd -- he walked a batter.
The Orioles' top pitching prospect -- one rogue baserunner aside -- shined again in his third professional start, striking out three over what's become routine: Three hitless innings and more high-90s readings on the radar gun as the Class A Delmarva Shorebirds beat the Hagerstown Suns, 6-2.
Bundy, the fourth overall pick in last year's Draft, topped out at 99 mph, according to the Shorebirds. Rumors of 102 mph posted on social media were not accurate, the team said.
The 19-year-old right-hander has thrown nine hitless innings to begin his career, striking out 15 of the 28 batters he's faced. He's topped out at 99 mph in each of his last two starts.
"Dylan wasn't as sharp as he was his first two outings. I think he might've had a little more adrenaline going being his first start at home," Shorebirds manager Ryan Minor told delmarvanow.com. "His stuff is good enough to get hitters out at this level by chasing high fastballs, but when he works down in the zone at times he's tough to get the barrel of the bat on the ball."
Bundy retired his first eight batters, inducing a pair of grounders in the opening inning and ending the second with a pair of strikeouts. He got Cole Leonida and Bryce Ortega to ground out to the start the third before Billy Burns became the first batter to reach base against Bundy by drawing a two-out walk. Jason Martinson bounced to shortstop to end the inning.
Trent Howard (1-0) picked up his first win, following Bundy with fire scoreless frames.
Nick Delmonico homered in the eighth and Nick Delmonico knocked home two runs for Delmarva.
"I try to treat every appearance just like I'm starting," Howard said. "Like today, I knew Bundy was just going three innings, so I kind of treated it as if the fourth inning was my first inning of the game, but I also had an advantage of seeing what the hitters did beforehand. For me, I tried to make it as similar as possible as if I were starting."
The Orioles, who drafted Bundy out of Owasso (Okla.) High School, have kept their prodigy on a short leash. He's thrown three innings in each start and said last week the organization plans to gradually build him up to four and five innings per start rather than focus on pitch counts. O's fans already are speculating when he could reach the Majors.
Bundy's home debut was anticipated as much by the Shorebirds as it was their fans. The South Atlantic League team's ticket office was buzzing with phone calls, Baltimore media rolled into town and Dylan Bundy T-shirts are on the way to Perdue Stadium.
"Never in my four years with the Shorebirds has there been this type of excitement for a start, this type of anticipation for any player to make his debut," said Bret Lasky, the Shorebirds' radio broadcaster and media relations director. "No doubt, it'll be one of our larger Tuesday crowds of the year. It helps, too, that the Nationals' first-round pick is also pitching, but it's mostly about Dylan."
Lasky said fans had been clamoring for information on when Bundy finally would take the mound at home. Usually, it's the Thirsty Thursdays and postgame fireworks shows that get fans worked up for a night at the ballpark.
"We've been promoting [Bundy's start] on Twitter, Facebook, the website, on the phones and at the box office," Lasky said. "Everything's ramped up, there's a big emphasis. The biggest question leading up to the announcement [that'd he be starting Tuesday] was, 'When is Dylan Bundy starting?' Every time someone called the office, that was at least part of the reason for the call."
And Bundy, who's older brother, Bobby, pitches for the Orioles' Double-A affiliate, also had to prepare for the recent attention.
"We have MASN Sports, Sirius satellite radio and our local writers coming, and MiLB.com wants to talk to him after every start," Lasky said. "Dylan's been great, very accommodating and easy to work with every time he's been asked to do an interview. It's not because he has to, but because he's a nice enough guy to do it. He understands that people want to talk to him, and that's part of being a first-round Draft pick. He gets all that.
"[As a broadcaster], I just wish he'd go more innings because it's fun calling strikeout after strikeout."
Of course, Bundy isn't the first recent top pick assigned to Delmarva.
"We had [Manny] Machado last year and [Matt] Hobgood before that, so we've had some good experience dealing with these type of guys," Lasky said. "We get that this is an important day, Bundy's home debut, because who knows how many more times he'll be here pitching for us. But we just ordered Bundy T-shirts, with his No. 7 on the back. We did the same with Machado."