Bundy to make first major league start on Sunday

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After weeks of questions regarding Dylan Bundy’s role in the second half, the Orioles announced that the 23-year-old right-hander will start the series finale against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.

Bundy has spent the entire season in the Baltimore bullpen since he is out of minor-league options, but he has pitched to an impressive 1.42 ERA with 23 strikeouts and four walks in his last 19 innings of work. This improved performance coincided with manager Buck Showalter giving the 2011 first-round pick at least three days of rest between outings beginning in late May.

His velocity has also spiked since receiving more rest between appearances as his average fastball has been 94.6 mph since May 31 and was 93.2 before that.

It remains to be seen whether this is anything more than a spot start as Showalter said as recently as last month that the goal was to get Bundy between 60 and 75 innings out of the bullpen in 2016 to get him ready to pitch as a starter next year. In 38 innings this season, he has posted a 2-1 record with a 3.08 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 12 walks, but he has thrown no more than 57 pitches or three innings in an outing this season.

His last outing took place on July 6 at Dodger Stadium when he pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings, recording all seven outs via strikeouts. He has not allowed an earned run in his last 15 innings.

Desperate to improve a starting rotation that ranks 14th in the American League and 28th in the majors with a 5.15 ERA, the Orioles must be careful not to push Bundy too hard from a physical standpoint. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2013 and missed most of last season with a right shoulder issue, meaning he entered this season having thrown just 63 1/3 minor-league innings from 2013-2015.

The Orioles announced before the All-Star break that Yovani Gallardo and Chris Tillman would start the first two games of the Tampa Bay series with Kevin Gausman taking the hill for the opener of a four-game set at Yankee Stadium on Monday.