The Orioles enter the second half of the season with a two-game lead in the very competitive AL East, but they do have rotation issues. Yovani Gallardo and Ubaldo Jimenez have been bad -- Gallardo has been hurt, too -- while Tyler Wilson and Mike Wright are also hurt. Of course, those two sport ERAs over 5.00 anyway.
There's basically a group full of question marks or downright bad options behind Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman. Which is why it makes sense that the Orioles will indeed give Dylan Bundy his first career start on Sunday. It'll come against a Rays team that has lost 22 of its last 25 games.
Bundy was heavily hyped from the minute the Orioles selected him fourth overall in the 2011 draft. He was ranked as a top-10 prospect in all of baseball by every major outlet before both 2012 and 2013. He debuted in the bigs at age 19 in September 2012.
Since then, though, he's had Tommy John surgery and a major shoulder issue.
Heading into this season, the Orioles were out of options with Bundy, so they had to keep him on the main roster or risk losing him. He's still only 23 and has immense talent, so they kept him in the bullpen.
As a reliever, Bundy overall has had a good season, but recently has been exceptional. In his last six outings, spanning 14 1/3 innings, Bundy hasn't allowed a run -- whether his own or an inherited runner -- with 19 strikeouts and four walks. Opponents have hit .212/.293/.269 off him in this stretch.
Some might worry that Bundy didn't get the chance to stretch out as a starter, given that the Orioles couldn't send him to the minors to do so. He actually is somewhat stretched out, though. He's gone more than two innings in half of his 22 outings. His last four times out, he worked three innings, three innings, 2 2/3 innings and 2 1/3 innings, respectively. He last pitched on July 6 and threw 56 pitches. Since Sunday will have been 11 days later, it's likely the Orioles had him throw an extended session over the All-Star break.
Still, don't expect him to go much over, say, 70 pitches on Sunday in his first start.
Overall, though, seeing Bundy finally get a shot in the big-league rotation as well as possibly help shore up a weakness for a first-place team is a rather intriguing proposition.