The Dodgers plan to activate Righty Dustin May of the 60-day injured list to start Saturday’s game against the Marlins, manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including Fabian Ardaya of the Athletic). It will be his first MLB appearance in more than 15 months, as the 24-year-old has been out of action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2021.
May was one of the best pitchers in the game by the time he reached the majors in 2019 and has excelled in his limited big league looks so far. He made his breakthrough as a swingman in 2019, starting just four of his 14 appearances that year. May grabbed 10 starts (out of 12 outings) during the shortened 2020 season, and he was a full member of the rotation for the first month last year before sustaining the elbow injury.
An elite groundball performer, May posted a sizzling 2.62 ERA with a slightly above average strikeout of 24.9% in his first two big league campaigns. That was promising enough, but he looked like he could emerge as a pitcher of the highest caliber in the first month of 2021. Averaging just under 99 MPH on his fastball, May hit a dazzling 37.6% of batters faced while racking up grounders on 56% of batted balls he allowed in his first five starts. He posted a 2.74 ERA over that stretch, but was forced to postpone his fifth appearance with an injury that ultimately cost him more than a year of action.
May returned to a professional mound about 14 months later, making his first rehab appearance with the Dodgers complex league team. After two innings there, he signed up with Triple-A Oklahoma City for three more weeks to rebuild into MLB form. May has made five starts with OKC, throwing 19 frames from a four-run ball with a 33:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. More important than the results, he has been scaled back to five innings in each of his last two starts, throwing 68 and 70 pitches, respectively. The Dodgers are unlikely to count on him to run a triple-digit pitch count right out of the gate, but a 75-85 pitch outing against Miami could be in the cards. May hopes to gradually build up his pitch from there and should have plenty of time to transition to the traditional starter workload before the post-season kicks off.
If he can immediately regain his form for 2021, May would be a huge boost for a club that once again has World Series ambitions. They were hit hard with the revelation that… Walker Buehler has to have elbow surgery and will not be returning this season. Still, the team has had sub-3.00 ERA performances from all three of their starters to surpass 100 innings this year: Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin and out of season signee Tyler Anderson. Pair that trio with May, a likely late season return of Clayton Kershaw – who will continue to dominate if he is healthy enough to conquer the mound – and a few small excellencies from Andrew Heaney, and the Dodgers still have the potential to execute five or six very strong starters in October. If everyone is healthy, one or two members of that group will be eligible to trickle over to the bullpen, which itself ranks fourth in the majors with a 3.16 ERA.