May electric in return from Tommy John surgery (2024)

Righty strikes out 9 in 5 scoreless innings in 1st game since May 2021

August 21st, 2022

May electric in return from Tommy John surgery (1)

Sarah Wexler

@SarahWexler32

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers already had what was quite arguably the best starting rotation in baseball this year.

In his return from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in May 2021, May baffled Marlins hitters over five scoreless innings of L.A.’s 7-0 victory. May struck out nine -- one shy of his career high -- while limiting Miami to a walk and one hit, all of which came in the first inning.

Box score

“Super exciting,” May said of the atmosphere surrounding his start. “Excited to be back. And I'm just glad to get the first one out of the way and know that the first one's behind me and that I came out of it healthy and strong and ready for my next one.”

A clearly amped-up May got off to a shaky beginning, laboring through a top of the first in which 14 of his 26 pitches went for balls. But May’s trademark velocity was very much there, with his sinker touching 98.8 mph and his four-seamer maxing out at 99.2 mph.

“That first inning, I think that we all saw emotions and just kind of [him] losing command a little bit there,” said manager Dave Roberts. “But just to show his resolve to bear down, make pitches, get out of that inning scoreless. And then after that, it just felt like he just continued to get better as the start went on.”

"It felt like he just continued to get better as the start went on." Dave Roberts on @d_maydabeast's outing. pic.twitter.com/K6mopHZd1e

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) August 21, 2022

Once May found his control, he became untouchable, retiring the last 13 batters he faced. Only one of those batters managed to put a ball in play out of the infield against him. His 40.8 called strike plus whiff rate was his highest in any start in his career.

“That’s just how good he is,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “He’s throwing a 99 [mph] sinker … then he’s got that slider that’s just kind of knee-buckling, at times. He mixed in some changeups, too. He has a lot of weapons now. Obviously a great competitor, and he’s really hard to square up.”

Still working on getting fully stretched out, May’s 71 pitches came right up against the five-inning/75-pitch limit Roberts had in place for him. (According to May, his request to go back out for the sixth was met with a “hard no.”) The Dodgers’ large divisional cushion -- 18 games ahead of the second-place Padres in the National League West with 43 left to play -- allows them not to rush May in getting deeper into games.

"Excited to be back... to know that the first one is behind me and I came out of it healthy." @d_maydabeast on being back on the mound. (5 IP, 0 ER, 2 BB, 9 Ks) pic.twitter.com/heEIJLso9I

— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) August 21, 2022

The timing of May’s return also means he’ll have ample opportunity to continue stretching out ahead of the postseason, with the schedule affording him approximately eight or nine regular-season starts, and may even give him the advantage of freshness in October.

Although May’s current playoff résumé consists entirely of appearances as a reliever or as an opener in bullpen games, the Dodgers view him as a starter from here on out. Additionally, this year’s postseason schedule eliminates travel days in the Division and Championship Series, meaning there’s a chance the Dodgers will need every healthy starter they have available. Right now, that’s Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, Tyler Anderson, Andrew Heaney and May. They lost Walker Buehler to season-ending elbow surgery, and there’s uncertainty around Clayton Kershaw’s back injury (although the Dodgers were encouraged by the results of the bullpen session he threw on Friday).

So May finds himself thrust into a situation where the best team in baseball is relying on him to be a key player in a championship run after more than a year away recovering from a major injury. That could be a lot to take for anyone, especially someone as young as May, who turns 25 on Sept. 6.

But May doesn’t view himself as having heightened responsibility to step in and carry the club in the playoffs. After all, even with the injuries, L.A.’s rotation remains a force to be reckoned with. He’s just one piece of the puzzle.

“We got a lot of great guys on this team and a lot of guys to pick each other up and everybody else,” said May. “So I'm just going to go out and do my thing and no reason to put extra pressure [on myself].”

May electric in return from Tommy John surgery (2024)

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