MARCH 11: Twins right-hander Trevor May has been diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament, per Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. He’s slated to receive a second opinion next week, Berardino adds, but certainly Tommy John surgery is now a strong possibility for the 27-year-old.
It’s dejecting news for the Twins and for May, who was in competition to reclaim a spot in the Twins’ rotation after spending the past season and a half in the bullpen. Originally acquired in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Phillies, May had a solid first half of the 2015 season in the Twins’ rotation before moving to a setup role when Glen Perkins went down with an injury. May thrived in that bullpen role in 2015 but struggled in the same role last season, missing significant time due to back injuries.
May totaled just 44 2/3 innings out of the Twins’ bullpen last season due to the aforementioned back issues, pitching to a 5.00 ERA but posting an impressive 60-to-17 K/BB ratio while averaging 93.9 mph on his fastball. A year prior, May logged a 4.43 ERA in 83 1/3 innings as a starter but delivered a much more encouraging 3.35 FIP and 3.96 xFIP. Upon shifting to the ’pen in July, May turned in a 2.87 ERA with 10.6 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 31 1/3 innings to finish out the season.
Earlier this spring, May suggested to Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the move to a relief role might’ve adversely impacted his health. Now, in the wake of this latest, devastating injury, that question will be up for even further debate. The injury, it seems, occurred during May’s most recent start, when he tossed 3 2/3 innings against Team USA’s World Baseball Classic lineup. As May explains (video link via Berardino), he felt a “grab” in his elbow on a single pitch. “I downplayed it in my head,” said May. “I thought it was some tightness in my flexors, something I’ve felt before.” May went on to throw another 34 pitches after the initial “grab” and felt continued soreness the following day, which prompted an MRI.
It’s of course possible, albeit unlikely, that May can avoid Tommy John surgery. We’ve seen pitchers such as Masahiro Tanaka and Garrett Richards opt for platelet-rich plasma injections and stem cell injections in recent years and avoid the operation. And, depending on the extent of the tear, May could be a candidate for the “primary repair” surgery that Seth Maness underwent last August. However, any of those treatments could very well sideline May for the entire season anyhow, perhaps making the more traditional Tommy John route the most logical course of action.
The loss of May means that the competition for the fifth spot in the Twins’ rotation will now come down to Jose Berrios, Tyler Duffey, Adalberto Mejia and, perhaps, non-roster invitees Ryan Vogelsong and Nick Tepesch.
Minnesota still controls May through the 2020 campaign, so he could play an important role in future Twins clubs should he make a full recovery. May will presumably spend the entire 2017 season on the 60-day disabled list and accrue a full year of service time, making him eligible for arbitration next winter.