May close to 'pre-surgery' self; Outman in OF mix
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- You’d never know that it was just a Cactus League matchup from watching Dustin May pitch.
After setting down Reds second baseman Alejo Lopez to end the second inning of the Dodgers' 8-1 win on Sunday, the fiery right-hander let out a scream as he walked off the mound -- a release of his frustration from walking the previous batter.
May settled into a groove from that point on, retiring the next six batters to finish off another stellar spring outing. He struck out seven batters while giving up two hits and a walk in four scoreless innings.
The 25-year-old, who has only given up one run in 8 2/3 Cactus League innings, feels as though he's building momentum in the right direction.
“I felt really good today, I was locating everything when I needed to locate it,” May said. “I felt like I was executing pretty well early, but repeating-wise, I felt like I had settled in a little more towards the end. I would say right now is probably the closest that I’ve been to ‘pre-surgery,’ feel-wise. So, I’m in a pretty good spot right now.”
After undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 12, 2021, May returned to Major League action late in ‘22, starting six games in August and September before a strained back muscle ended his season.
Being able to experience a normal offseason, focused more on recovery than active rehabbing, May has noticed a clear impact on his physical and mental state heading into 2023.
“There’s a lot of throws that have been made in the rehab process,” said May, noting the difference in how he feels compared to last year. “I wouldn’t say that I was tired or anything. But I was almost going through a full season with the throws. So just being able to have the rest of the offseason and coming in healthy is a good thing.”
The long road back from a significant injury took a toll on May, which he’s truly begun to appreciate now that he’s on the other side.
“Being able to take a few weeks off after last season was huge,” he said. “Not being able to take any time off during the rehab -- it was a grind. It was 15 months every single day of doing stuff.”
Regarding the momentary outbursts, manager Dave Roberts believes that May’s ability to utilize his intensity and emotions has grown tremendously.
“There’s a natural adrenaline to compete that’s in there with Dustin,” Roberts said. “He expects a lot from himself. He’s done a good job of damage control, managing -- his growth has been fantastic.”
Outman continues to shine
Dodgers No. 9 prospect James Outman is creating “high-class problems” in the minds of Roberts and the rest of the coaching staff. The left-handed-hitting outfielder continued his torrid start to the spring, blasting an opposite-field homer deep onto the lawn against the Cubs on Saturday.
Then, against the Reds on Sunday, Outman crushed a fly ball to deep center field which short-hopped the wall to drive in two and bring his RBI total on the spring to eight. The clutch hit came directly after he popped up with the bases loaded in his previous at-bat. Following Sunday’s win, Outman’s slash line is .391/.464/.783.
It’s clear that the questions surrounding Outman are less focused on his talent and ability on the field, and more so about where he might fit in the ever-shifting roster puzzle.
“James is unique, I put the mentality in the Will Smith bucket as far as being unflappable,” said Roberts. “He knew he had a job to do that previous at-bat, didn’t get the job done, but it doesn’t affect the defense or the next at-bat. For him to go out there and catch a barrel, to have a good at-bat the next one -- it’s no surprise. That’s sort of how he’s wired.”
In an outfield picture crowded by veterans and All-Stars -- one that Roberts says is “still pretty muddy” at this point -- the former seventh-round Draft pick has only complicated things by impressing during his at-bats.
“Is he big league ready? I would say he is,” said Roberts. “But how we shake out, that’s a different question. But he’s doing everything [he can]. James is going to be more in the mix. You can always debate what that means.”