Typically, when we've spoken about the Los Angeles Dodgers' starting rotation heading into the 2023 season, we've exercised caution and warned against injury issues plaguing the unit. But instead of realism, how about some optimism with the new year already here?
Everybody knows that Clayton Kershaw hasn't pitched a fully healthy season since 2015; that Tony Gonsolin is good but maybe not "playoff good" (and also dealt with a forearm issue last year and now an ankle issue this spring); that Noah Syndergaard's velocity post-Tommy John surgery will force him to become a different pitcher; and that we don't know what to expect from Dustin May in his first full season back from TJ.
Focusing on May, he's probably offered the most to look forward to of any Dodgers pitcher during Spring Training. The right-hander finished with a 2.95 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 20 strikeouts in 18.1 innings of work, flashing his patented nasty "stuff."
Worried about his potential workload, since he's never started more than 10 games or pitched more than 56 innings in a single season and is now coming off major reconstructive elbow surgery? Fair. But on Saturday, May hurled the longest outing (5.2 frames) of any Dodgers pitcher this spring.
That's has to count for something, right? We're not saying he'll be good for 200 innings this coming season, but the 25-year-old is well-rested and ready to be unleashed. How about 150 innings of absolute filth, though? That a good enough bounce-back for you, Dodgers fans?
Dustin May is bounce-back candidate Dodgers fans might be overlooking
May got off to a great start in 2021, suffered the elbow injury, and didn't return until late 2022 (during which he logged six starts). But he wasn't the most effective while shaking off the rust. He finished with a 4.38 FIP and walked 14 batters in just 30 innings.
That didn't tell the whole story, however. The velocity and movement were there; he just needed time to hone the location. He walked seven batters in his 18.1 spring innings, which is an improvement, and showcased his unique offerings. His turbo sinker, sweeping slider and knee-buckling curveball make for a one-of-a-kind combo when he's dialed in.
And we've still yet to see it all come together across a full slate of games, since his official full-season debut was the shortened 2020.
The fact that it's been a while, coupled with the reality that fans have never seen a sample size of greater than 12 games, probably represent why May isn't exactly being heralded as a top-tier Dodgers' bounce-back candidate; that titlehas been specifically reserved for Max Muncy and Chris Taylor, as well as Gavin Lux before he got injured).
Let's jump on the May hype train, though, because he's looked particularly good this spring, and is eager to put forth a full slate of work in what'll be a pivotal year for his development.