Baltimore Orioles pitcher Jake Arrieta, left, sprints with teammate pitcher Dylan Bundy, right, during a baseball spring training workout in February. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

Outwardly, Dylan Bundy made it clear that he came to his second big league spring training with the goal of winning a starting rotation spot with Baltimore. But despite the tremendous amount of upside and talent the organization’s top prospect possesses, it quickly became clear that Bundy being sent to the minors was less a question of if than when.

With two weeks remaining in spring training and Orioles pitchers beginning to get stretched out for the regular season, Grapefruit League innings are suddenly becoming scarce.

And because of that squeeze, the team optioned Bundy to Class AA Bowie on Saturday. He will report to Baysox camp at Twin Lakes Park and remain there as he prepares to begin the 2013 season.

“It’s time for him to get stretched out a little bit more and [the innings] aren’t here for him any more,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter said. “We want to go ahead and get that mentality, mind-set, adjustment made as soon as possible.”

Before leaving for the team’s Grapefruit League game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, Showalter called Bundy — the consensus top pitching prospect in the game — into his office at the team’s training facility in Sarasota to have a frank discussion about sending him down and where he needs to improve.

“We talked about a lot of things today,” Showalter said. “He’s in a really good frame of mind. He likes where he is. He’s had a good spring. It’s kind of fun talking to him about looking back what his impressions were last year and how he feels this year. He gets it. He’s going to be a good.”

The 20-year-old Bundy, the team’s first-round pick out of high school in 2011, was a September call-up last season, but the Orioles believe he still needs to refine his skills.

“I still believe that Double-A is the proving ground,” Orioles executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette said. “All players need to show they can master their skills at a core level.”

The organization’s No. 2 prospect, right-hander Kevin Gausman, will remain in big league camp for at least one more outing. For Gausman, the No. 4 overall pick last year out of LSU, this is his first major league camp, so the Orioles would like to see him a little longer before deciding where he will be assigned.

“We’ve had two springs with Dylan,” Showalter said. “We’re pretty familiar with him and where he is, and obviously we haven’t had that much time with Gaus yet. We want to get a little more familiar with him.”

The Orioles intend to pace both Bundy and Gausman — who reached Bowie in an abbreviated 18-inning first pro season — so that they could help the big league club late this season. When Bundy was called up to the Orioles last September, he allowed one hit in 12 / 3 scoreless relief innings.

Bundy expressed some frustration this spring. He battled with his control, and he struggled to reach his high-90s fastball velocity of last season. Showalter said Bundy is still working to refine integral parts of his game, like improving his time to the plate.

Bundy made four spring appearances, going 1-1 with a 1.13 ERA, allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits over eight innings with five strikeouts and six walks.

“It ain’t easy, but you learn from it,” Bundy said. “That’s how you get up and over things, you just have to fail some to succeed like that.”

— Baltimore Sun