Bundy, Gausman poised to take next step

Bundy, Gausman poised to take next step

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Orioles squad each day this week. Today's topic: What's the difference?

BALTIMORE -- As Orioles pitchers and catchers prepare to report to Spring Training on Feb. 13, the difference for this 2017 team may very well be what they get from young starters Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.

The pair -- assuming they're healthy -- will start the season in the rotation. And their expected progression -- for a rotation that didn't make any addition this winter -- has teammates and the O's fan base excited for what's to come.

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"It's huge," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said of Gausman and Bundy taking steps forward this season. "A lot of people have been saying for the last few years there are some younger arms, talking about Kevin and Dylan, that once they get that experience and kind of understand how to go about their work and what to expect, from the standpoint of making maybe 25 to 30 starts, these are the guys that we've been waiting on."

While Gausman's arrival isn't new, the right-hander -- who turned 26 last month -- made significant strides in his fourth big league season and is coming off a fantastic final two months. Bundy started his rookie season in the bullpen and showed flashes of what made him such a highly touted first-round Draft pick (fourth overall in 2011).

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"I think it was [Bundy's] third or fourth start, he's going into the sixth inning and I looked up and he was perfect," Davis said. "I remember thinking, and this is just me, I was at first and I'm like, 'Man, I feel like he's throwing the ball really well.' And I turn around and look at the scoreboard and I'm like, 'Holy crap, he's got a perfect game going.' But I felt like that's how it was every start for the first few starts for him, so I'm excited to see what those guys can do over a full season."

Bundy, 24, went 8-5 with a 4.52 ERA in 14 starts, pitching to a 3.08 ERA and 2-1 record in 22 games out of the bullpen. Gausman went 8-6 with a 3.10 ERA in 15 second-half starts, putting together a stretch run where he was consistently pitching at least seven innings.

"You see the second half he turned the corner and just started lighting up that strike zone and using his defense," center fielder Adam Jones said of Gausman. "Bundy looked great. I think getting his innings up, getting his arm strength up coming out of the bullpen and then the starts that he had, he looked great. I think, first of all, a full season of him playing in the Major Leagues and then the whole offseason, I think he's going to be ready to come out and give us 30-35 starts."

Brittany Ghiroli has covered the Orioles for MLB.com since 2010. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, follow her on Facebook and Twitter @britt_ghiroli, and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.