On Wednesday night in Baltimore, Dylan Bundy took away any possibility of a Twins win for the second straight start. While recording just 11 outs, Bundy surrendered 11 hits, two walks, two home runs, and nine earned runs. For the second straight start, he allowed a string of five-plus hitters to reach base safely without recording an out, a feat that’s rare enough to wonder whether it could possibly be a fluke. After dazzling in his first three starts, Bundy has absolutely cratered his season line.
The result of this is a reality check for Twins fans on a pitcher who’s failing to crack 90 mph and posted an ERA over 6.00 in 2021. Having signed for $5m, Bundy should have never been expected to provide premium innings, even after his first three starts. The question is whether the Twins' front office has received this same reality check.
The issues were plentiful for the 2021 Twins, but starting pitching was arguably #1 on the list. The signings of J.A. Happ and Matt Shoemaker, whom the Twins had identified as values in the offseason, turned out to be two of the worst pitchers in all of baseball and provided the Twins with a predetermined loss every 4th and 5th day. Despite this fact, Shoemaker remained in the rotation until the end of June and Happ remained until he was somehow traded at the deadline. Both proved that pitching signings of their tier simply don’t warrant a whole lot of patience. Neither has a job in Major League Baseball in 2022.
Context is key in this scenario, as by the time they need to move on became abundantly clear, the Twins season was effectively over already. The farm system also suffered from a wide range of pitching injuries, leaving the Twins with several bullpen days per week and no replacement options for the rotation. In short, the goal became crossing off innings rather than filling them in a meaningful way. In 2022, things have to be different.
Two starts make up just a small percentage of a pitcher’s season-long workload, and plenty of high-quality arms will struggle for such a short stretch. For that reason it’s not yet time to make any significant moves with Dylan Bundy. That being said, it is time for the Twins to feel some skepticism towards the 29-year-old right-hander. After watching three starts and wondering whether any kind of success could continue given Bundy’s visible lack of stuff, these last two starts may be the beginning of our answer.
Unlike 2021, the Twins simply have too many alternatives to allow Bundy to become a deciding factor in their 2022 season. Their financial commitment to him is too low, as are the odds of him factoring into any long-term plans. With him headed to the COVID IL, we should get to see more from Josh Winder for another start or two, although it’s very likely Bundy gets a chance to reclaim his spot in the rotation. In the meantime, if Josh Winder continues to stake his claim to a rotation spot, it may leave the Twins set up to act quickly if Bundy doesn’t rebound.
For what it’s worth, they’ve shown early signs of learning from their mistakes in 2021. After sticking with Alex Colomé through one of the worst months by a reliever in franchise history, the Twins were very quick to pull the plug on Tyler Duffey in high leverage this season after his early struggles. I would guess their lack of patience with a homegrown former staple of their bullpen foreshadows a very short leash for a one-year bounceback candidate in the rotation.
At this point one thing is certain, Dylan Bundy is currently the last man on the totem pole that is the Twins rotation. The wounds that 2021 left in Twins Territory are still fresh in the minds of fans as many already wonder “How many more starts can we let this happen?”. For a front office that was seemingly so eager to show off the arrival of their pitching pipeline, my best bet would be “Not much longer” as the Twins attempt to make a worst to first rebound in 2022. How long of a leash should Dylan Bundy get?
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