If a quick stint in the Majors is called having a cup of coffee, then Dylan Bundy had a small cup of espresso that packed a punch.
MLB.com's No. 15 prospect advanced from Class A ball to the Majors in 2012, his first professional season, proving himself at every stop along the way. After stints with Class A Delmarva, Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie, the 21-year-old ended his first Minor League season with a 2.08 ERA and 119 strikeouts in 23 starts. With those numbers, it was time for his first September callup.
Out of the bullpen, the right-hander retired the only two Red Sox batters he faced on Sept. 23, and in his next appearance two days later, Bundy worked his way in and out of a two-on-nobody-out situation against Toronto to keep his Major League ERA perfect and the buzz surrounding him louder than ever.
But with a new season came the first signs of trouble for the Oklahoma native. What started out as mild elbow tightness in his pitching arm turned into flexor mass tightness that needed a platelet-rich plasma injection. Six weeks later, the 6-foot-1 pitcher was cleared to resume throwing, but had to stop three weeks after that when doctors found a partial tear in that same elbow, meaning troubling news for the Orioles: their young phenom had to have Tommy John surgery.
Almost six months after surgery, the Orioles' No. 2 prospect continues his rehab in Sarasota, Fla., with his older brother Bobby, also an Orioles righty who is rehabbing after an elbow surgery of his own. With his biggest supporter at his side, the younger Bundy spoke with MiLB.com about preparing for the day he can return to the Majors for more than just a shot of caffeine.
MiLB.com: How are you feeling?
Dylan Bundy: I feel fine. I'm starting to throw about 45 feet, nothing hard or anything, but just kind of tossing the ball around. The middle-end of December is when (rehab) starts to actually progress.
MiLB.com: In June, it seemed like you were going to make a return. You began to throw, but then came the news of the Tommy John surgery. That must've been hard, how did you take that?
Bundy: It definitely wasn't news I wanted to hear, but it happens in baseball and a lot of pitchers come back from that, so it should be all right.
MiLB.com: You talked a little bit about this, but what have you been doing exactly in your rehab and what are the next steps?
Bundy: Shoulder stretches, shoulder [cuff] exercises three times a week and then I'll do a couple elbows [exercises], usually once a week, but now I'm going to start throwing three times a week. The next step would be basically just advancing my throwing program. [For cuff exercises,] basically you're working all the rotator cuff muscles: the small muscle groups in the shoulder, the decelerator muscles that help you slow down your arm after you're finished throwing.
MiLB.com: As far as throwing and your pitches, before getting injured, your fastball was arguably your best pitch, and the Orioles asked you not to throw the cut fastball. What do you think your velocity will be like when you return and will you resume the use of the cutter?
Bundy: Right before I got hurt, it was anywhere from 91-93 [mph], so I just want to get to somewhere around a good pitching speed, 92, 95. If I get more than that, I'll be really happy. I'll definitely work on [the cutter] when I get back to where I feel comfortable that I can throw that pitch again and see how it goes.
MiLB.com: A lot of young pitchers have had Tommy John surgery right after a taste of success, like Stephen Strasburg and most recently Matt Harvey. Have there been any players who have inspired you in your comeback?
Bundy: I mean, just seeing those guys come back and be successful, [like] Strasburg. You hear about all the famous other pitchers who have comeback from [Tommy John surgery]. [Cardinals pitcher Adam] Wainwright is a good example. He was in the postseason this year and is doing real good. So seeing those guys, seeing how strong and confident they are out on the field really gives me hope that I'm going to be able to do that in just half a year or a little more than half a year.
MiLB.com: You've experienced a lot at a young age -- being drafted fourth overall, making an MLB debut in your first season. How do you stay grounded?
Bundy: I stay grounded because I only have a week or two up there [in the Majors]. I don't have anything yet of what I want to accomplish in my pro career, so until I get into that World Series, I'm going to keep playing and keep working hard.
MiLB.com: How do you handle the pressure of being the Orioles' top prospect?
Bundy: Just kind of putting it to the back of your head and just realizing that everybody, unfortunately, gets hurt. That's the game of baseball. If you don't get hurt, then it probably wouldn't be that fun. Everybody would be playing it if you didn't get hurt. The pressure isn't too bad. I know I'm going to be able to come back in a couple months, and I know the Orioles organization -- they're being patient with me -- so it's going good.
MiLB.com: There are talks about the second half of the season, but when do you think you'll be ready to pitch and how long do you think the adjustment period will be?
Bundy: Well, I can't really predict it yet because I've only started throwing for a week now, so I don't know. I had surgery June 27, and they say 10-12 months, so if I come back by sometime in June, I'll be happy. I'm not going to go out there if I'm not comfortable throwing. Some people say a couple extra months [to return to form], some people say a full year, so I don't know. I just have to work hard to get back at it.
MiLB.com: What are you most looking forward to about being back in a game?
Bundy: Pitching and being competitive again. Helping the Orioles win is my main goal and hopefully getting to a World Series -- that's my dream. That's what I want to do.
MiLB.com: How are you able to stay competitive and fuel that competitive drive during the offseason, particularly with being sidelined?
Bundy: Basically just through my workouts, I stay competitive. I do stuff with my brother and some other guys down here in the Spring Training facility and just trying to compete with them, out running, stuff like that.
MiLB.com: I imagine it helps that your brother is down there rehabbing with you. How is that going?
Bundy: Yeah, definitely. We've always worked out together and stuff like that, so we know how to motivate each other in certain ways.
MiLB.com: I know you're from Oklahoma and obviously there aren't any MLB teams near there, but there are some Minor League ones around there. Who did you and your brother grow up rooting for?
Bundy: I'll ask my brother because he is right here. ... [He said] Texas. Really, both of us did because that's who we mainly saw. I also liked the Atlanta Braves, just because I went up there a lot and played baseball competitively when I was younger and we were up there.