Aside from all the opinions about the sign-stealing scandals, there were a few interesting bits of information that came out of Fan Fest this year, specifically one clue on how the Dodgers might use young right-hander Dustin May, at least towards the beginning of the season.
Last season, the 22-year-old righty went 6-5 with a 3.38 ERA and 110 punchouts over 106-2/3 innings of work between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City before making his MLB debut in August. For the big league squad, he made 14 appearances, 10 of which came as a reliever. To the surprise of some pundits, he was selected to the NLDS roster against the Nationals and eventually made two more appearances in relief.
Be that as it may, the 2020 season is an entirely different animal. Present on the team now are Jimmy Nelson and Alex Wood, both of whom may conceivably compete for the final spot in the starting rotation. If all the available starting arms remain healthy through Cactus League play, it could mean that May will begin the season at OKC, perhaps being the first starting pitcher on deck in the event of an injury, even though he clearly has one of the Top 5 arms in the organization.
What’s more, he has options on his contract. Nelson and Wood do not.
Regardless, many fans are still wondering if there are any firm plans for May as the season progresses, specifically in terms of an innings limit..
One emerging line of thought is that the club will use May sparingly in the early portion of the year, saving the bulk of his workload for the stretch run of the regular season and into the playoffs. In this light, it doesn’t make much sense wasting many innings in the minors, especially if his stuff is as good as everyone says.
Another less-popular theory is that the club might still use May as a reliever in the majors, despite the claims the team made earlier this winter. This seems impractical, though, particularly because of the amount of big league depth the team has. As it stands now, there may be up to three or four capable relievers forced to begin their seasons on the farm.
Either way, there might be one or two “precautionary” visits to the injured list for May—if anything, to provide a few periods of rest.
Nevertheless, May will probably begin throwing on a five-day rotation once Cactus League play begins, stretching out his arm like starting pitchers normally do. If the Dodgers were to indeed begin May in the minors and allow him to throw about four or five innings a week for a month, it would seemingly keep him fresh while starting him out on a pace similar to how Walker Buehler was utilized in 2018.
The most important clue could be knowing exactly what the Dodgers have in mind in terms of an innings limit.
In any event, it’s certainly nice to know the club has a weapon of May’s caliber waiting to be unleashed.
It’s probably safe to say we’ll hear his name plenty come October.