Minnesota Twins rookie starter Trevor May had a rough Mother's Day. Pitching against the Cleveland Indians, he gave up nine hits and three walks in four innings, leading to six runs scored and an 8-2 defeat for the Minnesotans. This puts May's 2015 overall line at 2-3, 5.40 ERA in six starts with a 24/8 K/BB in 30 innings, 39 hits allowed.
Combining 2015 with his cup of coffee in 2014, May now has 76 major league innings on his resume, with an unsightly 6.90 ERA and 98 hits allowed, though his K/BB isn't horrid at 68/30. His career FIP at 4.16 and xFIP at 4.23 are much better than the ERA.
Still, when your career ERA is almost a Boeing number, you don't exactly have a tight hold on a big league job.
How patient should the Twins be with May? Here are some quick thoughts on the matter.
****May has little left to prove in the minor leagues, with solid Double-A and Triple-A performances on his resume. At age 25, would he really learn much by going back to Rochester, or can he only learn what he needs to learn against big league competition?
****There doesn't seem to be any problem with his stuff. It is a matter of execution and command. Despite his issues, May's walk rate has actually declined significantly this year; though he fell behind too many hitters yesterday, fewer overall walks are obviously a good marker.
****A frequent scout observance when May was in the minors was that he seemed to lose focus on occasion, particularly early in his career, which led to command troubles. Interestingly, May expresses interest in issues like meditation and mindfulness. He also admits to a tendency to over-think, mentioned in a recent interview with the Minneapolis Star Tribune. This sounds like a case of a player who loses focus not through lack of effort or concentration, but perhaps by trying too hard.
****You could keep him in the majors but move him to the bullpen. There are cases of starting pitchers who over-think in that role who turn into decent relievers because they don't have as much time to tangle themselves in knots when they might pitch every day but in shorter stretches. Perhaps a bullpen sojourn would help him find his footing.
.****That said, although some scouts projected him as a reliever earlier in his career, one of May's best attributes is inning-eating durability, averaging 144 innings and 27 starts per year over the last five seasons with no serious arm-related health concerns. It would seem a waste to take an arm like that and turn it into a 60-inning reliever.
****The Star Tribune's Brian Murphy notes that Twins manager Paul Molitor is "committed to May in the rotation" and there are no current plans to change that.
****Molitor could change his mind of course and if May keeps getting hit hard he likely will, but sticking with May at least a while longer seems like the right move to me. The component ratios point to a pitcher with a great capacity to improve quickly if he develops more consistency and has somewhat better luck and defensive support.
How patient would YOU be with May if you were in Molitor's situation?