The Dodgers plan to activate righty Dustin May from the 60-day injured list to start Saturday’s game against the Marlins, manager Dave Roberts told reporters (including Fabian Ardaya of the Athletic). It’ll be his first MLB appearance in over 15 months, as the 24-year-old has been out of action since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2021.
One of the game’s top pitching prospects by the time he reached the majors in 2019, May has excelled in his limited big league looks to date. He broke in as a swingman in 2019, starting just four of his 14 appearances that year. May picked up 10 starts (out of 12 outings) during the shortened 2020 season, and he was a full-fledged member of the rotation for the first month last year before incurring the elbow injury.
An elite ground-ball artist, May posted a sparkling 2.62 ERA with a slightly above-average 24.9% strikeout rate over his first two big league campaigns. That was promising enough, but he looked as if he might be emerging as an ace-caliber hurler through the first month of 2021. Averaging just under 99 MPH on his fastball, May struck out an eye-popping 37.6% of batters faced while racking up grounders on 56% of the batted balls he did allow through his first five starts. He posted a 2.74 ERA over that stretch, but he was forced out of his fifth outing with the injury that eventually cost him over a year of action.
May returned to a professional mound around 14 months later, making his first rehab appearance with the Dodgers complex league team. After two innings there, he reported to Triple-A Oklahoma City for another three weeks to build back into MLB shape. May has made five starts with OKC, tossing 19 frames of four-run ball with a 33:6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. More important than the results, he’s built back to five innings in each of his last two starts, tossing 68 and 70 pitches, respectively. It’s unlikely the Dodgers will count on him to run a pitch count in the triple digits right out of the gate, but a 75-85 pitch outing against Miami could be in the cards. May figures to progressively build his pitch count from there and should have ample time to transition to a traditional starter’s workload before the postseason gets under way.
If he can immediately recapture his 2021 form, May would prove a huge boost for a club that again has World Series aspirations. They were dealt a tough blow with the revelation that Walker Buehler needs to undergo elbow surgery and won’t return this season. Still, the team has gotten sub-3.00 ERA performances from all three of their starters to eclipse 100 innings this year: Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin and offseason signee Tyler Anderson. Pair that trio with May, a likely late-season return from Clayton Kershaw — who continues to dominate when healthy enough to take the mound — and some small sample excellence from Andrew Heaney, and the Dodgers still have the potential to run five or six very strong starters out in October. If everyone’s healthy, one or two members of that group figure to trickle over into the bullpen, which itself ranks fourth in the majors with a 3.16 ERA.