Dodgers’ Dustin May is making strides on and off the mound

There is the way in which Dustin May feels when he’s on the mound, and there’s the way in which the fiery Dodgers right-hander outwardly expresses it.

On the within, May has been quietly happy along with his progress this spring, persevering with to regain energy and stamina he didn’t notice he was lacking final yr in his preliminary return from Tommy John surgical procedure — in addition to a newfound degree of psychological fortitude to associate with it.

“I would say right now is probably the closest I’ve been to pre-surgery, feel-wise,” May stated. “I’m in a pretty good spot.”

It’s simply that, based mostly on May’s often-emotional in-game demeanor, it typically will be exhausting to inform.

During 4 scoreless innings towards the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday, for instance, May snapped at himself on a number of events: after dropping a ball whereas overlaying first base; after misfiring on a pitch that tailed extensive of the strike zone; after a second-inning stroll that compelled him to flee a jam.

In the ultimate occasion, the frustration crescendoed with a scream — and four-letter curse phrase — that echoed across the intimate setting at Goodyear Ballpark, reverberating from the mound to the stands to the press field loud and clear.

“I mean, it’s always there,” May stated afterward. “I’m always irritated with myself in some small situations. But that’s just how I pitch. I’m very animated and I’m very energized when I’m on the mound.”

Then, he added with a sly grin: “Just sometimes, the crowd is a little louder, so you don’t hear it.”

While it would look like a maniacal midstart routine, particularly from a pitcher who hasn’t all the time channeled his feelings the best method, May believes his outbursts are serving a extra methodical objective now.

“I’m just telling myself, ‘Quit sucking,’ ” May defined. “That’s just my vocalized way of saying it.”

And if it helps the flame-throwing 25-year-old get again to the place he was, when his burgeoning profession appeared destined for stardom earlier than his surgical procedure, then the Dodgers will take it. Profanities be, nicely, damned.

“I’m not expecting him to be Evan Phillips out there,” supervisor Dave Roberts stated of May, contrasting his younger starter with the membership’s stoic veteran reliever. “Obviously, there’s a natural compete and adrenaline in there with Dustin. He expects a lot from himself.”

“But,” Roberts added, “when you’re expected to go out there and throw 100 pitches a night, you gotta be able to harness those emotions and not let one bad thing get worse. So he’s done a good job of damage control, of managing that. His growth has been fantastic.”

Even within the early levels of that career-long maturation course of, May rapidly emerged as among the best younger starters within the main leagues upon his debut in 2019.

With a close to triple-digit fastball and depraved late life on his two-seamer and breaking pitches, May posted a 2.62 ERA with 79 strikeouts (in 79 innings) in 17 begins throughout 2020 and 2021.

In the 2020 season, he pitched vital innings within the Dodgers’ World Series run. In 2021, he turned entrenched close to the highest of their rotation after only one month.

It appeared a star was being born, that the subsequent nice younger Dodgers ace had arrived.

But then his elbow blew out throughout a begin May 1, 2021, in Milwaukee, resulting in a prolonged rehabilitation stint extra grueling than May ever anticipated.

Dustin May’s outbursts on the mound are typically like his hair — fiery pink.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

“It was a grind,” he stated. “It was 15 months of every single day, doing stuff.”

Read also  Alabama’s Brandon Miller calls deadly capturing ‘really heartbreaking’

In hindsight, it might need additionally facilitated among the pitcher’s current strides.

Rob Hill, the Dodgers’ minor league pitching director, oversaw a lot of May’s restoration on the group’s Camelback Ranch facility in Arizona and rapidly picked up on the pitcher’s trademark depth.

“The coolest thing with Dustin was, he never showed, or we never saw, any sort of mental wavering whatsoever,” Hill stated. “There was never a day where he showed up and it was like, ‘Ah, today is gonna be a [expletive] day. He’s not ready to roll.’ He was ready every single day.”

The edge, Hill stated, was current in all places. In mundane throwing workouts. In gymnasium work on days May got here in regardless of being scheduled to be off. Even in spirited clubhouse pingpong video games towards fellow rehabilitating pitcher Jimmy Nelson and members of the teaching and coaching employees.

“There was definitely some carnage that had taken place in the major league clubhouse,” Hill stated jokingly. “Broken paddles, chairs, all kinds of stuff.”

When May returned to the large leagues on the finish of final season, that psychological recalibration — of not abandoning his aggressive hearth however directing it in a extra optimistic method — continued.

Battling what he now believes was a lingering hangover from his prolonged rehabilitation, the pitcher was inconsistent in six begins down the stretch.

Some nights, flashes of his outdated self appeared, like his scoreless five-inning debut in August towards the Miami Marlins or his 5 no-hit innings towards the San Francisco Giants in September.

Read also  Does signing Derek Carr make the New Orleans Saints a contender?

But in different outings, poor command and spotty protection annoyed him once more, prompting exaggerated reactions from the red-haired pitcher and, unsurprisingly, extra curse-laden screams.

“I think that’s part of growth,” Roberts stated final yr, when May posted a 2-3 file and 4.50 ERA. “He’s an emotional guy, and when you’re young, you’re emotional, you don’t have a lot of experience, but you have a lot of talent — [you have to learn] more is not always better.”

In dugout conversations between begins, Clayton Kershaw helped his younger teammate, and fellow Texas native, notice it as nicely.

“The Texas boys getting together and talking, it just helped his mound presence, his maturity,” assistant pitching coach Connor McGuiness stated. “Like, if you make a mistake, the hitter doesn’t need to know. You don’t need to show him.”

To this level of camp, it has all began to return collectively.

May’s three Cactus League begins have largely been clear, with the pitcher giving up one earned run in 8 2/3 innings whereas hanging out 13.

More vital, he has felt a bodily sharpness that was missing final season.

“I wouldn’t say I was tired or anything, but I was almost going through a full season of throws [during rehabilitation],” May stated. “So just being able to have the rest of the offseason and come into this year healthy is a really good thing for me.”

And if he can couple it with a extra refined mentality, it may very well be a very good factor for the Dodgers too.

After all, it’s May’s confidence and physique language the group cares about — not his often profane selection of phrases on the mound.

“Even when he was getting squeezed,” Roberts stated of May’s newest flare-ups Sunday, “there was some frustration. But he rebounded. He’s just been able to control his emotions a lot better.”