Greatness is fleeting. It’s a lesson we all attempt to deny as our favorite team’s latest superstar bursts onto the scene, but history confirms that it is so. And while you can find plenty of hitters in the annals of baseball history who tantalized us with their abilities before vanishing as suddenly as they had arrived, the variability of pitchers is even more staggering. From Sandy Koufax to Mark Prior and Herb Score to Dwight Gooden, it seems like every true legendary arm baseball gives us there are a couple who for some reason we can’t comprehend simply don’t make it. But the case of Dylan Bundy is different from them all. Dylan Bundy is only 20 years old and Tommy John Surgery is far from the worse thing that could happen for his career. But after his potential exhilarated us as he rose from A-ball all the way to the major leagues, Bundy’s seemingly unstoppable rise to one of the best pitchers in baseball has stopped, at least for the moment, essentially before it even began.
Dylan Bundy’s 2012 was no ordinary minor league season. The 4th overall pick for the Orioles in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bundy began his career like your typical highly-touted high school player with an assignment to the Low-A level, in this case with Delmarva of the Sally League. His results there, though, were anything but conventional. In his first pro game on 4/6/12, Bundy struck out 6 in 3 perfect innings, throwing all 21 of his pitches for strikes. In his second career game, he did the exact same thing. Finally in his third appearance, Bundy allowed his first baserunner, but through 4 appearances, Bundy had gone 13 no-hit innings, striking out 21 while walking just 1. His first hit allowed came in his 5th appearance and his first run, albeit an unearned one, in his 6th, but overall Bundy went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 8 appearances for Delmarva striking out 40 while walking just 2 in 30 innings pitched and allowing just 5 hits in the process.
Bundy earned a quick promotion to High-A Frederick and proceeded to dominate as the youngest pitcher in the Carolina League, going 6-3 with a 2.84 ERA, a 10.4 K/9, a 2.8 BB/9, and a 0.8 HR/9 in 12 starts and 57 innings pitched, and suddenly he was in Double-A. And after managing a 3.24 ERA in three starts with Double-A Bowie, Bundy made his major league debut on 9/23/12, retiring the last two batters of the game on 7 pitches in the Orioles’ 2-1 loss to the Red Sox. His season ended after he struck out 1 working around a hit in his second appearance on September 25th. Bundy had a lot more work to do and he was likely going to require at least half-a-season in the minor leagues before he would truly be big league-ready. But after all the greatness he had exhibited in his professional debut, it looked like it was only a matter of time before that translated to the major leagues.
1.2 innings pitched. That’s it. This isn’t the end of Bundy’s journey as a major league baseball player, but when he restarts it will not be the beginning either. What did we just see? It was a like a strike of lightning that struck once before disappearing, and you know it will return only you don’t know exactly when and whether it will be as strong. Will Bundy make it through this? Did we get a teaser of the next big thing or the beginning of the end for something that we thought would be so great? The questions will all be answered in time. For now, though, all we can do is wait to see how Bundy’s recovery goes and how he will do when he comes back. Are seeing a bump in the road for an incredible talent or greatness evaporating faster than ever before?