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Article: Hopes And Plans For Trevor May

trevor may john smoltz kyle gibson lewis thorpe fernando romero
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#1 Seth Stohs

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 11:03 PM

Yesterday, Nick wrote about a forgotten player who hopes to be a factor in the Twins pitching staff in 2018, Phil Hughes. Another pitcher finds himself in a similar boat. Trevor May had Tommy John surgery last March and spent the 2017 season rehabbing. That process continues. We can’t with any certainty know when he will return to the Twins. However, as with Hughes, we can certainly speculate what his role might be for the Twins in 2018 and beyond.So when might Trevor May be back? Also, what is the best role for him? Of course, there’s no way to know either of those answers, but we can at least start thinking about them.

When might May return?

It’s obviously difficult to know the answer to that question. One tremendous source for fans regarding Tommy John surgery is Jon Roegele’sexcellent Tommy John surgery list. It provides a lot of information on those who have had the surgery, which organization they were with, when the surgery was, when they returned, and which doctor performed the surgery. It's a very valuable tool for fans.

The generic timeline for recovery of pitchers is 12-14 months, but the range really is more like 11-24 months. And even that is very dependent upon when the surgery happens. I mean, if a guy has the surgery in August, they’re going to miss the entire next season, but because there are two offseasons involved, it’s likely he won’t pitch in a game for 20-22 months.

Lewis Thorpe and Fernando Romero both needed two years to return, but both of them had a setback in their recovery. Romero needed knee surgery. Thorpe lost time due to mono. Brusdar Graterol missed nearly two years as well, but he had surgery in August 2015, missed all of 2016, and didn’t return until the GCL season started in June of 2017.

On the other side of things, Kyle Gibson returned to the mound just under 12 months from his surgery date. Joe Nathan returned just over a year after his 2010 Tommy John surgery. Alex Wimmers returned in 11 months.

May’s most recent Twitter update on his arm came about three weeks ago. On November 13, he tweeted, “75 throws at 105 today. That’s a lot. And I’m fired up.”



That doesn’t tell us when he’ll be back and able to pitch, but it tells us that things are progressing very nicely for the right-hander.

It’s also possible, depending upon where May is in his rehab during spring training, that he could spend a month or two in the minor leagues building up arm strength in a controlled environment before bringing him back to the big leagues. That would not be a terrible idea, and depending on the role he’s brought back for, it might make the most sense.

What Is The Best Role for May?

Here is another question that we just don’t have any great answer for. There are so many variables that go into that, including things that are completely out of his control, like the Twins front office acquiring starters or relievers this offseason.

A quick look back in time tells us that there are three (sort of) possibilities for guys returning from Tommy John.

1 - Starters Come Back As Starters
2 - Relievers Come Back As Relievers

The first two sound really simple, right. I mean, if a guy was a starter before he had Tommy John surgery, he tends most often to come back as a starting pitcher. There are several examples of starters who came back as strong as they were before the surgery, sometimes even better. Maybe the best example of that is Tommy John himself. He notched 164 wins in the big leagues after having the surgery that is named after him. Tim Hudson, Chris Carpenter, Jordan Zimmerman. The list goes on and on of starting pitchers who have come back to all-star caliber after surgery. Kerry Wood came back as a quality starter after his surgery following his Rookie of the Year season.

Likewise, relievers come back as relievers. Billy Wagner was back as the Astros closer in under a year and continued to dominate. Joe Nathan returned to dominance following his first Tommy John surgery. Pat Neshek took a little time to get back to his pre-surgery self, but he has come back to all-star levels and multi-year extensions.

3 - The John Smoltz Option (Starter Becomes Reliever)

The best example of a player shifting roles after Tommy John is Hall of Famer John Smoltz. He was a tremendous starting pitcher for many years before his surgery. When he came back from his surgery, he made a handful of starts before taking over the Atlanta closer role. He went on to save 154 games over the next three-plus seasons. He became the best closer in the game for a short period. But then he went back to starting, in his fifth season after surgery. He made 100 starts over the next three years and was twice an All-Star.

Kerry Wood had shoulder surgery later in his career, and at that point, he came back as a closer and was good for a couple of years.

Smoltz has talked in the past about the decision to move into that closer role. Essentially, he wasn’t able to eat as many inningsas before his return, and more important, the Braves were a contending team in need of a reliable closer. Smoltz was able to not only fill that role, but dominate in it.

But he did want to get back into a starting role. He talked about how he was able to develop a consistent routine, know his schedule for running, throwing, side sessions, etc. He didn’t have to worry about throwing every day. He was able to adequately rest.


What About May?

Which category does May fit into? That’s the tough part that we just don’t know. Starters come back as starters. Relievers come back as relievers. Well, is May a starter or a reliever? I mean, he came up as a starter, but he became a threat in the bullpen for a couple of years. He missed time in 2016 with a back injury that cost him a lot of time in the season's second half. There was thought that he could help mitigate that stress by starting. That’s the role he went into spring training 2017 fighting for. He was being given every opportunity to be a starter.

Until that fateful start against Team USA in a WBC exhibition game in Ft. Myers. That night, he felt discomfort in his elbow. A month later, he had the surgery.

For me, I would probably bring him back as a starter. At least that’s how I would handle his return. To me, that would be much easier on his arm and body, and it might be helpful mentally as he works through the ups and downs of a return. Then again, spring training itself is a very regimented program, especially for pitchers. They know when they’ll pitch (starters and relievers). They plan several days ahead for who will pitch and how many pitches.

In other words, like all injuries or player development or anything, it has to be individualized.

It’s likely that Trevor May, Paul Molitor, Thad Levine and Derek Falvey will have several conversations before spring training, and then throughout spring training.

So there are two questions for the Twins Daily readers to consider:
  • What do you think the Twins and May should decide?
  • What do you think that the Twins and May will decide?


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#2 terrydactyls1947

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Posted 04 December 2017 - 11:31 PM

There was a lot of talk that his back problems were related to pitching in relief.If that is true, he should be brought back as a starter.If they are unrelated, he would be a great reliever.What will the Twins do?Probably release him and he goes on to be an All-Star with another team.


#3 nater79a

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 02:23 AM

Seth, interested in the picture at the top.Is this from the day late in spring training when it was announced that Trevor would have TJ?  

 


#4 diehardtwinsfan

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 06:19 AM

his demotion to the pen wasn't due to talent or non-performance. For a team desperate for starting help, he should be a starter... even if that means a month or two in the minors.

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#5 tarheeltwinsfan

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 07:20 AM

We may find out about May in May...maybe.
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#6 Thrylos

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 07:28 AM

I think that the answer to May is a bit more complicated, given the back issues that likely arose from his body not being well prepared for / adjusted to a pen role.I understand that this is a new set of coaches and decision makers than previously, which might help him.

Another thing that complicates the answer is that we don't know who will be on the Twins roster come next March.If they get 2 top of the rotation arms and keep Santana, there is no space for May in the rotation, unless there is an injury.

In the unfortunate event that the Twins do not get enough arms, May better have a spot unless he proves he is not ready.

 

For some reason, I see this as a Santana vs. May situation, because the Twins will help themselves to top of the rotation pitchers.If Santana is not here, May will be in the rotation, if/when ready.if Santana is here, May will be in the pen and used as a spot starter, assuming he is ready.

May has an option, which makes things a tad more flexible.

 

Still long enough time to think about it.Come February/March, we'll have more data points.

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#7 rdehring

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 07:52 AM

Don't know whether or not he will be a reliever or starter...that's for others to decide.What I do expect is that he will not be ready for opening day.I see him spending a month to two in XST where he will finalize his rehab.He then gets sent out on a rehab assignment for 20 days and reports to the Twins sometime in late May or June.Bullpen or starting, we'll all know next spring.


#8 Original Whizzinator

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:13 AM

I like him as a starter. He looked to me on the way to fulfilling that valuable role. It is Trevor's preference as well. If May is on the way to reaching his potential as a starter there won't be anyone good enough to block him.
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#9 The Wise One

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:21 AM

The back issues need some resolution. Perhaps the new training staff will have better idea for treatment. His time as a starter was nothing special. Many a bad things happened more often than for a normal pitcher when the bat met the ball when he was starting.As a stikeout artist he was only slightly better than average. Maybe he learned something as a reliever, maybe not. Spring training will tell. . 

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#10 Seth Stohs

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:27 AM

 

Seth, interested in the picture at the top.Is this from the day late in spring training when it was announced that Trevor would have TJ?  

 

Yeah, that was the first day I got to Ft. Myers last year...


#11 Doomtints

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:42 AM

 

his demotion to the pen wasn't due to talent or non-performance. 

 

This gets repeated a lot. Where is it coming from?

 

You can argue the Twins didn't give him enough of a chance (120 innings), but you can't argue he was performing acceptably as a starter (5.61 ERA, .817 OPS against). And don't forget, he was moved to the pen after a 6-run start where he only managed to get 1 out, and then a guy named Tyler Duffey was called up and kept exceeding expectations as a starter.

 

May probably deserves another shot (esp. if it's May v. Duffey), but some of us have a narrative on May that forgets everything that happened in 2015.

Edited by Doomtints, 05 December 2017 - 08:43 AM.

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#12 Dantes929

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:53 AM

 

 

I think that the answer to May is a bit more complicated, given the back issues that likely arose from his body not being well prepared for / adjusted to a pen role.I understand that this is a new set of coaches and decision makers than previously, which might help him.

Another thing that complicates the answer is that we don't know who will be on the Twins roster come next March.If they get 2 top of the rotation arms and keep Santana, there is no space for May in the rotation, unless there is an injury.

In the unfortunate event that the Twins do not get enough arms, May better have a spot unless he proves he is not ready.

 

 

"If they get 2 top of the rotation arms"?Odds wise I am guessing you might as well say "If they get 5 top of the rotation arms".I say this because I cannot remember them ever getting what was widely viewed at the time as even 1 top of the rotation arm during the off season. Morris was coming off two mediocre years at age 36 so do not count him.Blyleven somehow or other was acquired for a player to be named later (how did that happen?) during the season. Ervin Santana has been the closest thing I can think of and people still question that status even though he has been nothing but great. Certainly he wasn't viewed that way when we got him.

 

 How many top of the rotation guys are there?How many are available?How many teams are going after them?If we get one guy in the Cobb or Lynn category I will consider it a successful off season.Darvish, even better.Again, there might not be 30 teams after these guys but there are no less than a dozen for each. If we get one of those guys then it is that guy, Santana, Berrios, Gibson and Mejia.If we don't it is probably Gonsalves or a different rookie that fills the spot. I hope it is not Santiago. I just don't see May with us out of the gate unless he is throwing 96 with great command.With his back issues I definitely see him as a starter.I have long considered May to be the centerpiece of the Span and Revere trades and am optimistic he will be a big piece this year. I just don't see rushing him in April.

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#13 gunnarthor

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 09:08 AM

I think this is a pretty easy answer. He'll start the season as part of the rotation in AAA. Unless something goes horribly wrong, he'll be the first starter up when we need a new one. I think our AAA rotation will include Mejia, May, Gonsavles and Romero, which gives the team some depth.

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#14 Teddy

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 09:22 AM

Does Trevor have any options left? I thought they used up their last option on him, and if that's the case, wouldn't he have to start the season on the DL and then a 30-day rehab assignment if they want him to start in the minors? Or because he finished the season on the DL, can they start him off in a rehab session without an option or needing to expose him to waivers to send him down?


#15 Mike Sixel

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 09:44 AM

I think this is a pretty easy answer. He'll start the season as part of the rotation in AAA. Unless something goes horribly wrong, he'll be the first starter up when we need a new one. I think our AAA rotation will include Mejia, May, Gonsavles and Romero, which gives the team some depth.


Agreed. Counting on him to be ready is a bad plan.
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#16 nytwinsfan

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:31 AM

It’s also possible, depending upon where May is in his rehab during spring training, that he could spend a month or two in the minor leagues building up arm strength in a controlled environment before bringing him back to the big leagues. That would not be a terrible idea, and depending on the role he’s brought back for, it might make the most sense.

 

Unless he's just lights out and consistently hitting his spots, showing excellent command in spring training, this is the way to go.I've always heard command can frequently lag even when the pitcher has his movement and velocity back after TJ.

 

I definitely would try to bring him back as a starter though.

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#17 Thrylos

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:37 AM

 

 

 If we get one of those guys then it is that guy, Santana, Berrios, Gibson and Mejia.If we don't it is probably Gonsalves or a different rookie that fills the spot. 

 

 

Good luck competing with Cleveland, Houston, and the Yankees; not to mention the Dodgers, Cubs, Expos etc. with this rotation in a short series or in one game series

 

They need two pitchers better than Berrios to compete and Santana is not one of them.

 

Edited by Thrylos, 05 December 2017 - 10:37 AM.

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#18 sthpstm

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:43 AM

 

This gets repeated a lot. Where is it coming from?

 

You can argue the Twins didn't give him enough of a chance (120 innings), but you can't argue he was performing acceptably as a starter (5.61 ERA, .817 OPS against). And don't forget, he was moved to the pen after a 6-run start where he only managed to get 1 out, and then a guy named Tyler Duffey was called up and kept exceeding expectations as a starter.

 

May probably deserves another shot (esp. if it's May v. Duffey), but some of us have a narrative on May that forgets everything that happened in 2015.

I don't think counting his cup of coffee as a rookie in 2014 paints an accurate picture. His 2015 ERA was 4.43 and his FIP was a shiny 3.35. He was sent to the pen because Ervin Santana was coming back from suspension and the old regime had to have Tommy Milone and Mike Pelfrey starting games for them. Tyler Duffey didn't come up until August at which point they weren't going to stretch May back out again.

He also bounced back from that poor start and made an excellent start before he was sent to the pen.

 

I definitely would plan on May as a starter. He can be counted on for 8 if not 9 K's per 9 inning and has good stuff to back it up. The Twins don't need a regular 5th starter until the end of April so I'd work him back slowly and give him a few starts in April in AAA. Aaron Slegers or Dietrich Enns can make a spot start or two (assuming we don't sign 2 top starters. By then there will probably be an injury or a poor performer to replace.

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#19 nytwinsfan

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:46 AM

 

 

This gets repeated a lot. Where is it coming from?

 

You can argue the Twins didn't give him enough of a chance (120 innings), but you can't argue he was performing acceptably as a starter (5.61 ERA, .817 OPS against). And don't forget, he was moved to the pen after a 6-run start where he only managed to get 1 out, and then a guy named Tyler Duffey was called up and kept exceeding expectations as a starter.

 

May probably deserves another shot (esp. if it's May v. Duffey), but some of us have a narrative on May that forgets everything that happened in 2015.

(emphasis added). YES YOU ABSOLUTELY CAN.

 

May Career as starter: 3.85 FIP 4.09 xFIP, .354 BABIP

May 2015 as starter: 3.35 FIP, 3.96 xFIP, .344 BABIP

 

Yes, his numbers as a reliever are significantly better, but that is true of almost any pitcher, and he pitched as a reliever after another year of development, when he may have been improving somewhat as a starter as well had he stayed in that role. 

 

Compare:

 

SP A starter year X: 7.88 K/9, 20.3 K%, 1.94 BB/9, 5.0 BB%, .86 HR/9

SP B starter year Y: 8.59 K/9, 22.6 K%, 2.97 BB/9, 7.8 BB%, .93 HR/9

 

Which would you rather have? It is pretty close, but I'd go with starting pitcher A, because of the significantly lower BB% and very slightly lower HR/9 rate, even despite the lower K rate. But I'll grant that it is debatable.

.

.

.

.

.

SP A is Trevor May as a starter in 2015. SP B is Jose Berrios in 2017.

 

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#20 Tom Froemming

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:48 AM

Thanks for the update. I'm not sure how the Twins should be planning May's future, but I will say that ever since Joe Nathan had Tommy John I've looked at this surgery a lot differently. I think we're a little desensitized to it, since it's so common and so many players bounce back, but it's a big recovery and some guys need that 24 month timetable to really get back.

 

Nathan had the surgery in March of 2010 and made the Opening Day roster the next season. It looked like he was toast in his first year back, but nope, he still had two more amazing years in him that the Rangers benefited from.

 

2004-09: 1.87 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 11.1 K/9

2011: 4.84 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 8.7 K/9

2012-13: 2.09 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 10.5 K/9

 

It's going to be a really tough message to deliver to a 28-year-old Trevor May who I'm sure is absolutely chomping at the bit to get on the mound and prove himself, but it's going to be important that he and the team remain patient.

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