SARASOTA, Fla. ——Dylan Bundy has grown accustomed to pitching in front of a crowd. This one, however, was a first.
The 19-year-old right-hander, anointed one of the game's top prospects before he threw a pitch in a professional game, drew the attention of Orioles spring training camp Wednesday morning.
Bundy, the No. 4 pick in last year's draft, threw his first open bullpen session of the spring, roughly a 15-minute informal unveiling of the pitcher who was just named the game's 11th-best prospect by Baseball America. Orioles manager Buck Showalter watched from different angles. Executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette leaned against a field railing, watching from the side. Media, team personnel and players also watched.
Catcher Matt Wieters and left-hander Zach Britton were among the players who saw Bundy pop catcher Brian Ward's mitt with fastballs, even though Bundy later estimated he was throwing at only about "90, 92 percent."
"He wasn't even trying to throw hard," Ward said. "He can throw a lot harder than that, but it was a heavy ball. It was firm."
Wednesday was just the fourth day of spring training workouts here at the Ed Smith Stadium Complex — and the first time he threw for the public (his first session was done Monday as part of the team's biomechanical testing) — but Bundy has already drawn praise for his quiet demeanor and level-headedness beyond his age.
"He's just going about his business. He's trying to get work done, which is the most important thing," said Wieters, another top-five overall pick who was immediately in the spotlight as a pro. "But he's also staying under the radar a little bit for the most part, which is good, because you don't want to go out there and put that big target on your back from the beginning.
"He's got a good arm," Wieters added. "There's no doubt about that. The biggest thing that's going to help him is that he's got a good head on his shoulders."
Said Ward, a 26-year-old who played at High-A Frederick last season: "I thought his mound presence was pretty impressive for a 19-year-old kid. He had command of all his pitches. He knew exactly what he was doing with them, both sides of the plate. You don't normally see that from a 19-year-old. You see it from a 22-year-old. He's real polished as a pitcher right now."
Bundy — who threw Ward a mix of four-seam fastballs, two-seam fastballs, cutters, changeups and curveballs — said the crowd Wednesday didn't rattle him but he was nervous during his first bullpen session Monday because it was his first time throwing in front of team personnel. He said he had thrown six to eight bullpen sessions on his own before coming to camp.
"Monday was worse," said Bundy, who was the nation's top high school pitcher last season with a 11-0 record, 0.20 ERA and 158 strikeouts in 71 innings at Owasso (Okla.) High. "I was kind of excited for that one. I was pretty wild, but today was a lot easier. The group, I'm kind of used to it. In high school, I had a bunch of people watching."
From here, the Orioles will likely try to harness the Bundy hype and let the experience take hold. His corner locker, next to one of two drink coolers, is next to those of pitchers Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton and Brian Matusz. He hopes to take advice from them, as well as Wieters.
"I just keep to my own but listen to what the older guys have to say and learn from it," Bundy said.
On the mound, he's just trying to keep things normal.
"It's just baseball," he said. "It's just a bigger locker room with bigger names in it. It's the same thing as high school, basically. It's a lot bigger, a lot faster pace of game and a lot bigger people."
Showalter's already made it clear that Bundy, who is in big league camp because he is signed to a major league deal, won't make the team and will see the majority of his innings this spring in minor league camp.
But the Orioles manager took all the attention in stride Wednesday. As a crowd began to gather minutes before Bundy and nonroster invitee Steve Johnson (St. Paul's) began to throw, Showalter said he was going to clear out the area from viewers, then dropped his serious expression and smiled.
"It's part of the job description," Showalter said of the attention. "It's not like Dylan slipped in here under the radar screen or anything. It's a story. I understand it, for the right reasons, because he's well thought of and the potential there, but there's a lot of bridges to cross."