FORT MYERS, Fla. ——The Boston Red Sox's sparkling new JetBlue Park was designed to be a replica of Boston's Fenway Park, down to the mock Green Monster in left and the duplicate Pesky Pole down its right-field line.
And in a spring full of firsts for Orioles top prospect Dylan Bundy, this is where the 19-year-old right-hander made his first Grapefruit League appearance Tuesday afternoon against the Red Sox.
Orioles fans already hope Bundy's debut at the real Fenway is sooner rather than later — even though he hadn't thrown a professional pitch coming into the spring. The organization, however, has been careful to avoid reveling in the hype revolving around the flame-throwing teenager.
For days, Bundy had been scheduled to debut here. But it was on Orioles manager Buck Showalter's drive to Fort Myers on Tuesday morning when he determined which inning Bundy would pitch. After discussing it with pitching coach Rick Adair, Showalter decided to give Bundy the fifth inning — and likely give him a chance against Boston's starters.
When Bundy took the mound, he faced the top of the Red Sox lineup — Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez.
"I wasn't nervous," Bundy said. "I was antsy — amped up. Facing those three guys [in his] first game — right off the bat — that was pretty intense."
After 15 pitches — mostly fastballs, which the radar guns behind home plate clocked as high as 97 mph — Bundy ended another personal milestone with a scoreless inning in front of an announced 9,091 fans.
"Obviously, every pitcher wants to face the best," Bundy said. "That's how any pitcher gets better, facing the best. I felt that those three hitters in that lineup were pretty dang good. I came in the game, thought I was going to throw in the eighth or ninth. To pitch in the fifth was pretty special."
It might be Bundy's last moment in the spotlight this spring. He's next slated to pitch in a "B" game Sunday, and that could be his final outing before he is sent to the Orioles' minor league camp.
"You never say never, but we'll see where we are Sunday," Showalter said. "It was another good step for him, another thing to get exposed to before he goes down. [The fifth inning] was a good spot for him. It's another part of the process."
Bundy's outing didn't go without its challenges. After retiring Ellsbury on a groundout to third, he issued a four-pitch walk to Pedroia.
After starting Gonzalez with a 95 mph pitch out of the zone, six of his first nine pitches had been balls. Catcher Taylor Teagarden visited the mound to settle Bundy.
"I just told him, 'Hey, man, just do it like we did in live BP,'" Teagarden said. "'You've got plenty on your fastball, just get you in the zone, get these guys swinging the bats.'"
Two pitches later, Gonzalez laced a 97 mph fastball foul into the left-field seats. Another 97 mph fastball shot high into the air in center field, was caught in the wind and landed harmlessly in the glove of center fielder Xavier Avery. One fastball later, Bundy was out of the inning after Luis Exposito flew out to right in foul ground.
"That's what happens when you get behind [in] the count, you've just got to throw fastballs," Bundy said. "I was just kind of leaving my fastball up."
So now, Bundy will prepare for possibly his final big league outing. But he will have some familiar faces on the back fields of Ed Smith Stadium. His former high school team from Owasso, Okla. — the team he was pitching for at this time last year — is in town playing in a nearby tournament.
Showalter granted them permission to work out on one of the back fields Sunday morning. They'll likely take a break to get their look at Bundy in an Orioles uniform before he heads to Twin Lakes Park.
He's already made an impact in his first big league camp. After Tuesday's outing, add Teagarden to the list of those who have been impressed with Bundy's composure.
"For 19 years old, he carries himself very well," Teagarden said. "I've seen a lot of young guys come out in games like that and just walk the house, pretty much. But coming out playing against the Red Sox, with a big crowd, he got back in the zone, and he seems composed, for the most part."