Pitcher opens up about struggle with anxiety

May 2nd, 2023

This story was excerpted from Martín Gallegos’ A’s Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

OAKLAND -- Though he remains on the injured list with issues related to anxiety, A’s reliever  returned to the clubhouse over the weekend for its three-game series against the Reds at the Coliseum.

Speaking to a group of reporters for about 25 minutes on Sunday morning, May opened up about his mental health struggles, which he said is something he has been dealing with throughout his baseball career.

“The COVID [2020] year was the first time that I struggled a little bit at times,” May said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more comfortable with saying it and just getting it out there and taking a beat when I need it. That’s very much what is going on. There are other life things that happened outside the game as well. It’s almost like you always have to stack things that you’re dealing with, and it really depends on where those things are in the stack at times. Sometimes something trivial ends up being the gallon of water that breaks the dam.”

May mentioned Rockies closer Daniel Bard and Tigers outfielderAustin Meadows as inspirations to become more public with his own situation. 

Prior to the start of the 2023 season, Bard requested to be placed on the 15-day injured list due to anxiety, which he said heightened to the point that it began to affect his ability to pitch. Meadows was also placed on the injured list with anxiety last month and stepped away from the club to focus on his mental health.

“The way Daniel Bard says it is, that thing you’ve been doing your whole life, when the thought of doing it stops you from taking any action, that’s when you’ve gotten into the, ‘Oh, no,’” May said. “When you feel yourself being to where you’re like, ‘Oh my god, tomorrow is not going to be a good day. I can tell by how I feel right now.’ That’s when I feel like I might need to take a little bit of action here.”

May has discovered avenues to better deal with his anxiety-related issues. Among those methods is keeping a daily journal to reflect on his emotions.

“I’ve been writing a lot,” May said. “Not only do I want to work through it that way, but I also want to remember and document it so I can go back to it later.”

Bringing the issues to the attention of the A’s last month, May was officially placed on the 15-day injured list on April 19 and granted an indefinite leave of absence. After spending some time away, May decided to rejoin his teammates to help out however he can during what has been a tough stretch to begin the season.

“I’ve been around a lot and dealt with this before,” May said. “Failure in a massive way. It can snowball as a team, not just as a person. I want to be there for these guys, too. So there’s a certain level of not wanting to be out of this room, even if I’m not pitching at the moment. I can still help by listening because I know what these guys are going through.”

The A’s will not place a timeline on when they expect a return to the mound for May, though manager Mark Kotsay indicated that there is a schedule the right-hander is following in coordination with the club's employee assistance services team.

"On my end, I just want to make sure he's given the tools and resources," Kotsay said. "We're working him back into competition at his pace and comfortability. We're not going to rush him. ... I reached out to Trev and told him I'm here if he needs me. This team will be here when he's ready."