Monday, August 3, 2015

Interperting the use and future of Trevor May

The Twins' deadline acquisition, Kevin Jepsen, didn't exactly pay off Sunday. The big righty walked the first two men he faced in the top of the 11th inning, setting up the three-run inning that decided the game.

It was not a good day for the Minnesota bullpen overall. Glen Perkins gave up a homer in the ninth to break a scoreless tie and the Twins survived to extras only because Brian Dozier returned the favor in the bottom of the inning. And the Brian Duensing-Casey Fien combo that had until recently been favored by Paul Molitor for non-Perkins late innings allowed Jepsen's walks to score, plus one of their own,

But let's talk instead about Trevor May, who threw a scoreless 10th inning with two strikeouts. Earlier in the day, the Twins announced that Tommy Milone had inflammation in his left (pitching) elbow and was going on the disabled list and that Tyler Duffey was coming up from Triple A to take his spot in the rotation.

Duffey, not May. May has been in the bullpen for a month now (Sunday marked his first appearance in back-to-back games), and the Twins apparently doubt that he's prepared for a starter's workload now.

There's another aspect: May has, perhaps, made himself too valuable in the bullpen to shift. May has made 10 relief appearances; he has a 3-0 record, one hold and a 3.17 ERA. He hasn't given up a lead or broken a tie and been scored on in only two of his outings.

May's the primary set-up guy now, Molitor's top option for the non-Perkins late innings. It was May in the ninth inning of Saturday's tie; it was May in the 10th inning Sunday. Not Jepsen, not Duensing or Fien or Blaine Boyer.

Dan Gladden's tone in discussing the Duffey call-up suggested that he thinks Milone's injury should get May back into the rotation. Certainly it provided an opportunity to do so, and probably, had it come two weeks earlier, it would have. That's it's not happening strongly suggests that it won't happen in 2015.

Or, maybe, ever. Much as I believed and argued that May was actually the team's most reliable starter when he was put in the bullpen, he seldom pitched deep into games. He had a season high of seven innings, achieved twice in 15 starts. Mike Pelfrey, in comparison, has gotten at least 21 outs (seven full innings) nine times. Milone's had four such outings in 14 starts.

And a point I made in commenting on the Jepsen trade applies to May: There's not much room in the rotation beyond 2015. Assume Pelfrey doesn't return. The Twins still have Kyle Gibson, Phil Hughes, Milone, Ricky Nolasco and Ervin Santana under contract for 2016 -- and 2017 as well. Plus there's Duffey (one home run allowed in 132 combined inning in Double A and Triple A) and Jose Berrios knocking on the door.

Injuries happen. Trades happen. A door back to the rotation may very well open for May. But there's a genuine possibility that his destiny is in the bullpen.

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