LOS ANGELES – Dustin May’s career has always been about potential. That electric right arm. The evil moves and revolves around each sacrifice. Each round, the type of fire that comes out of him, red curls come out of his hat.
His on-field dominance has come in tantalizing doses. Wednesday should have been a continuation of his hot streak: He posted a 2.68 ERA in his first eight starts and looked like one of the best starters in the sport.
Instead, it took 16 innings to beat the Twins 7-3 on a May afternoon. No volume above 95.8 mph, a shocking sight from the right-hander known for his ridiculous speed and movement. After a quick chat with manager Dave Roberts and pitching coach Mark Pryor on the bench, May grabbed his things and disappeared into the dugout to the clubhouse at Dodger Stadium. The elbow screams again.
The 25-year-old was coming into his own, just as he was 14 removed from Tommy John surgery. Now, he could miss at least a month and possibly more, Roberts said, after May suffered a flexor pronator strain after being tested earlier.
A league source said May had been feeling some pain during his rehabilitation. The athleticsBut he thought it was a normal part of recovering from surgery. Tests on Wednesday revealed a Grade 1 flexor tendon strain, which didn’t heal properly during the rehab, leading to some discomfort.
“(Right now) it’s not good,” Roberts said, adding that May had already left the ballpark to have an MRI.
Those tests showed no difference in the surgically repaired ulnar collateral ligament, league sources said. The athletics. May injects platelet-rich plasma into the vein to encourage local healing, hoping to avoid premature surgery. If the injection works properly, the source said, the hope is that May can return in four to six weeks.
The right-hander blossomed this spring, using his first regular season in years to look like a good front-rotation starter. He improved his weaponry by changing the shape of some of the breaking tones and changing the pitch usage, with impressive results. May looked like the pitcher he had promised to be when the prospect came out like a fireball. That momentum took a major turn Wednesday afternoon, down to the dugout steps with it.
“The feeling right now when Dustin takes the mound is that he’s the best guy out there and he’s going to go out there and dominate,” Roberts said on Wednesday morning, just hours before May’s bad luck began.
May didn’t feel anything on either pitch, Roberts said, and hasn’t felt anything other than his usual mid-career aches since entering the seventh inning of last Friday’s win over the Padres at Dodger Stadium.
That didn’t ease the stress of watching that May afternoon come to an abrupt end. Noah Syndergaard became the second Dodgers starter in less than a week to exit a start after one inning with the injury after a bloodied finger cut short his start in Milwaukee. Syndergaard lasted just four innings Monday as Dodgers starters threw nine innings in three games against the Twins.
Getting through Wednesday was the job needed to call up 31-year-old right-hander Dylan Covey for his first major league appearance in three seasons after spending the last few years in the CPBL in Taiwan.
“Two years ago, I never thought I’d be back in this situation,” said Covey, a former White Sox Rule 5 draft pick whose last taste of the majors was more than eight innings during the pandemic-shortened season for the Red Sox.
The Southern California native pitched four innings (allowing two earned runs) to relieve a struggling Dodgers bullpen that had to cover 21 of 30 consecutive innings after Monday’s game went into extra innings. The Dodgers are in the midst of 13 games in 13 days.
Additional reinforcements will soon be needed for a suddenly strained rotation in May’s absence. Gavin Stone’s interim rotation is likely to take May’s turn; The prospect was able to play in the big leagues earlier this month. Stone will be at his usual pace if he makes May’s next start, and he’s coming off a 10-hit Triple-A outing.
The rest of the depth will be uncertain if May misses more time. Michael Grove (groin) and Ryan Pepiot (hamstring) are starting to face the killers in the rehab. Both pitchers will need minor league rehab before they can reasonably be expected to continue in the stretch run. The continued health of Syndergaard, who gets his start Monday without any more issues on his finger, suddenly becomes important.
But none of those starters have shown the kind of rotation-changing impact that May has flashed.
“It’s definitely a big part of this year,” Roberts said of May. And he still might be. But now to find this speed bump again, I know it’s disappointing.
(Dustin May photo: Gary A. Vasquez / USA TODAY)