According to ESPN/TruMedia, May’s 9.8 K/9 in September was the ninth-best among all American League pitchers with four starts or more. In all of 2014, with the exception of May, not one Twins starting pitcher managed to eclipse that nine strikeouts per nine innings mark in a single month. His 12% swinging strike rate topped the rotation as well and ranked alongside brand name AL pitchers. On top of that, May was just familiarizing himself with major league opponents. The strikeout-poor Twins starting rotation should be thankful to have found that kind of contributor.
Instead the Twins decided that the left-handed Tommy Milone made the most sense for the rotation to start the year and opted to have May begin the season in Rochester. While Milone will be tapped to be the fifth starter, general manager Terry Ryan was bursting with complimentary words when he told the media that he was not “displeased with Trevor May either.”
May’s “not displeasing” spring was truncated by a bout with the flu which limited his innings at the beginning of the exhibition season. Nevertheless, in the ten innings of work he struck out nine and walked just two -- a much better K/BB ratio than either Milone or Mike Pelfrey.
The news was a let down for the 25-year-old right-hander. After two consecutive seasons in camp with early reassignments this decision felt different for May.
“It’s completely different because the first cut you feel like you are just there to get your innings and go get your work in. I felt like I have a chance. I feel like this is the level I am going to be at but it’s just not going to be right now.”
Teams cannot make costly decisions based on a body of work that stretches for a month. The strikeout-filled September also contain plenty of issues when hitters did make contact. In addition to the robust strikeout rate, May also had one of the league’s highest hard-hit averages and owned the AL’s highest slugging percentage against. Missing bats is good but elevating pitches and allowing hard contact is not.
In his final start against the Pirates, May was not as stretched out in comparison to his competition. Over 4.2 innings of work, he threw 33 pitches -- his highest total pitch count of the spring. That start also came with loud contact combined with wind-aided extra base hits. Despite the results, May felt good about the process but recognized when the kinetic chain broke down.
“I got a little long sometimes and some things flattened out a little bit. Especially elevating,” May said after his final start. “When I was trying to elevate usually that’s has more life than it did. Things stayed a little bit flatter when I would more often than not get bad swings but they squared up pretty good. They got me a couple times.”
After struggling from the stretch in 2014 and refining his mechanics this spring, May felt like he was headed in the right direction. His takeaway from his last start was positive.
“For the most part my body feels under control and I’m definitely happy with the progress I am making in those areas and being able to get ahead of guys and keeping the ball down in the zone, for the most part, has been better than it has been in the past.”
One area that May improved upon in 2014 was his ability to control the run game. After allowing 22 stolen bases on 28 attempts in 2013 in New Britain, he allowed just one stolen base in four attempts split between Rochester and the Twins. The attention to runners required additional focus on execution and location on his secondary pitches from the stretch -- something that he felt was progressing well in the spring.
Manager Paul Molitor mentioned that May did not pitch himself out of contention for the spot this spring. It was different variables that played a role in choosing Milone. The message to May for the immediate future was simple.
“Go down and keep working,” said May in regards to the instructions he received from the Twins. “I felt like I made a lot of steps and improved in areas that needed to improvement, composure-wise and poise and being aggressive. That’s how it shakes out sometimes.”