I'm not going to get too worked up about who will be in the opening rotation until we have a chance to see how the dust settles with trades and free agents. But long-term, I'd like to see them give May a chance to start.
However, we have to be realistic about his workload for the year. From 2011-13, he threw 149.2+ innings each year. Then he threw 144 innings in 2014, 114.2 in 2015, 46.1 in 2016, and 0 in 2017.
So I think you have to approach 2018 with an assumed innings limit. With that decreased workload and coming back from surgery, I don't think there's any way he can be a full-time starter for the entire year. It's hard for me to see him pitching more than perhaps 140 innings. And if he's not going the entire season, it makes more sense to be conservative and back-load the season.
What does that look like? Maybe something like about 10 starts of 5 innings and another 15 starts of 6 innings, give or take. So about 25 starts.
Look at the Twins schedule. If they keep four starters on regular rotation, they need a No. 5 on April 11, then not again until April 24, 29, and May 4. Then not again until May 22, just over a quarter of the way through the season.
From there, they have a number of off days in June, but not enough to skip starts. But effectively, most starts in June will come on 5 days rest, which could be helpful for a guy coming back from injury.
So my response to May is to say,
- "You will not make a start until May 22. On the four times we need a No. 5 guy before that, we will make do, perhaps giving Gonsalves, Romero, or Hughes a spot start if need be. Heck, even Duffey could be lengthened for one of those." (That assumes no pickups via trade/free agent. If so, perhaps it's Mejia or Gibson getting those No. 5-guy starts.)
- "If your rehab goes well, you will start a game on May 22. If our ML rotation has thrived and remains healthy, you will pitch in Rochester. If the more likely scenario of an injury or two has happened, you will start against the Tigers, which is essentially a AAA game anyway."
- "Assuming you are effective enough to stay in the rotation, your first 10 games or so will be limited to 70-85 pitches, which will take us essentially to the All-Star Break."
- "Following the break, if you are still healthy enough and effective enough to stay in the rotation, we will up your pitch count to 80-100 pitches for the rest of the year, maxing out when you get to 140 innings. That will get us through the rest of the year. We may need to move you back to the bullpen for the playoffs, which we plan to take part in."
That's looking at May in a vacuum, but in reality, I think that's what you have to do -- figure out the optimal usage for each individual pitcher and then start at the top, working them into the team context. For example...
- Santana and Berrios (and Darvish, etc.) pitch every fifth day for the entire season, adjusting as needed.
- Workload-wise Gibson is in the same boat, though effectiveness is the question.
- Mejia is not yet ready for 180 innings, but if a top 4 starter is picked up, Mejia might be able to take the early season No. 5-starts and then slide into the full rotation, etc. If you haven't picked up a top-4 starter, the team context probably says that you have to start Mejia in the rotation and start thinking about Plan B for if/when he starts to break done.
- And you've done the same thing with the minor league guys, starting them in Rochester and starting to move them up as openings occur and as they earn it.
- And then keep Bartolo's number on speed dial, just in case. :-) Just kidding!!!