Which role will Dustin May help fill down the stretch with Dodgers?

Adam Weinrib
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Dustin May #85 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his pitch during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 25: Dustin May #85 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts to his pitch during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 2021 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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Sometime around the start of August, the Los Angeles Dodgers will get a massive boost to their pitching staff.

No, not Luis Castillo, though the Dodgers remain unsatisfied with their MLB-leading ERA and will likely make a play for him, too. We can say with a bit more certainty that, after exiting his May 1, 2021 start with an issue that eventually devolved into Tommy John surgery, Dustin May will be returning to the Dodgers in 2022’s second half.

That’s just on time, though his rapid return would’ve baffled fans from even a decade prior, when this kind of surgery typically came with 18 months away from the diamond and numerous complications.

May’s rehab assignment will reportedly commence “around the All-Star break,” otherwise known as the coming days. Once that assignment begins, so does his ticking return clock, but with so much time off between his most recent impactful pitch and today, odds are the Dodgers will take the entire month and return him to the team in mid-August.

Dodgers’ Dustin May will be starter in August and Sept.

Where does May slot in? According to manager Dave Roberts, nothing has changed. May might be operating on a pitch count, but he’s a starter until it doesn’t make sense for him to be.

As Roberts told the Orange County Register’s Bill Plunkett this week:

"“He’s a starting pitcher in our mind. Now if we get to October and based on different factors, we might reconsider that. But coming back when he does, we view him as a starting pitcher, and to the extent that we can continue to build him up without any setbacks then he’ll be built up like a starting pitcher. If we have any setbacks then maybe we’ll bring him back earlier in a different role. But our plan is to build him up, have him start for us and then evaluate as we go.”"

That means that even in October, if May’s on a heater entering the big dance, he’ll probably remain in the rotation. If he can best be utilized out of the bullpen in short spurts, though, the team will reconsider.

“Innings limit”? What innings limit? May hasn’t pitched since spring 2021. He won’t be starting his 2022 soon enough to run into any significant hindrances. If “May the Starter” is working in September, it’ll keep working in October, which could be massive if Walker Buehler suffers any setbacks of his own.

In just 113.2 career regular-season innings, May has already accrued 1.9 WAR, finding his footing in 2021 just before the injury derailed his progress (35 whiffs in 23 innings vs. 44 in 56 innings in 2020). His absurd high-octane stuff was translating to swings and misses — until the breaking point, of course.

Roberts will manage him in October carefully and will utilize him however his skills translate best. Don’t expect many restrictions, though. May has rehabbed as a 2022 starter and will arrive in August expecting to throw the first pitch.

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