LOS ANGELES -- In a perfect world, Dustin May would have picked up right where he left off before undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2021. Before the injury, May was starting to break out as one of the top young pitchers in the Majors.
But it isn’t always that simple in the post-surgery world. Though now a relatively common procedure, most pitchers who undergo Tommy John say it takes time to round into form. May is experiencing that firsthand.
May’s struggles since coming back continued as the right-hander allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in the Dodgers’ 5-1 loss to the D-backs on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium. May has allowed four or more runs in three of his last four starts.
“I’m at a point now where I feel comfortable with everything, I just need to go out there and execute,” May said. “It’s not really a thing with Tommy John anymore. I just need to go out there and throw strikes.”
Outside of five hitless innings in his last start against the Giants, walks have been an issue for May during this stretch. He walked five and three, respectively, in his two starts against the Padres. On Wednesday, May walked two batters, both of whom came around to score on a pair of Christian Walker singles.
“Tonight, whether he was getting into predictable counts or he was in position to put a hitter away, he wasn’t able to do that,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Trying to bully guys, which I think sometimes he’s guilty of with the four-seamer, gets too predictable. Just continuing to understand his mix the right way will prove beneficial.”
May fell behind 1-0 in the count to four of the first nine batters he faced. Because he put himself in too many hitter’s counts, May allowed a season-high seven hits to a D-backs lineup full of young hitters.
No hit was more damaging, however, than the bases-clearing double by Corbin Carroll in the fourth. As soon as Carroll made contact, May knew it was trouble, crouching over and yelling into his glove. Catcher Austin Barnes said they were trying to get the pitch a little more elevated, but May left it in the bottom of the zone.
“They hit the stuff that I threw in the zone,” May said. “I threw a lot of balls and got into bad counts. I set myself up for failure, walking guys and giving up weak contact. It was just overall bad.”
While May wasn’t sharp on the mound, the Dodgers’ offense didn’t have much to show for, either. The Dodgers went down in order in each of the first three innings. In the fourth, Mookie Betts hit his 35th homer of the season against Madison Bumgarner. They weren’t able to make much noise afterwards.
The Dodgers’ offense isn’t a concern heading into October. On the pitching side, the Dodgers still have some things to figure out, and May’s recent struggles only give them more questions.
With Tony Gonsolin’s status up in the air and Andrew Heaney showing some cracks recently, the Dodgers are looking for another starter to establish himself as a quality option in the rotation. Tyler Anderson is the likely option behind Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw, though the team would prefer to keep the veteran left-hander in a more versatile role.
In order for the tentative plan with Anderson to work, they’ll need May to improve and earn that role. He’ll will need to continue working on his pitch mix, as Roberts alluded to. He’ll get two more starts and a simulated game to prove he can be the guy the Dodgers are looking for, and that performances like Wednesday’s won’t be repeated when it matters most.
“Time is of the essence,” Roberts said. “There are only a couple more starts to kind of clean that stuff up, but that’s on all of us to do that.”