Dustin May's career as a Dodgers starter must end after latest surgery

Dustin May is one of the nastiest pitchers in MLB, but it's become clear that it's not sustainable.

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres
Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres / Sean M. Haffey/GettyImages

Just when it looked like things were positively progressing for Dustin May, the rug was swept out from beneath everyone's feet. The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Tuesday that May would be undergoing season-ending surgery to repair the flexor tendon in his right elbow.

This is the second major elbow surgery that May has undergone in the last two years. In May 2021, the right-hander left a start early against the Milwaukee Brewers with elbow pain and had to undergo Tommy John surgery, which kept him out of action for 15 months.

Arm surgeries are more common than ever in the sport and the recovery time faster than ever. While May will miss the rest of 2023, the long-term outlook of his future is not as bleak as it would have been if this happened in the 1990s.

However, a change still needs to be made if the Dodgers want to maximize May, keep him healthy, and prolong his MLB career. Nobody wants this to be a sad "what if" tale that current fans tell their grandchildren in the future.

Dodgers must permanently move Dustin May to the bullpen upon his return

While athletes continue to break down physical barriers as time goes on, the human body is still fragile and there are certain things that cannot be done at a high volume. May's pitching style is obviously something that's not sustainable at a starting pitcher's workload.

May has some of the nastiest stuff (with wicked velocity) in the entire sport. That comes with a price, though, and that price is being unable to pitch an entire season as a starter. At a reliever, the workload will be much smaller and it would allow May to really hone in on his arsenal and get the most out of it.

Mariano Rivera couldn't throw his cutter for six innings every five days. Trevor Hoffman couldn't fool batters with his changeup if he was asked to throw 90 pitches every turn through the rotation. Heck, Brusdar Graterol was originally expected to be a starter in the minors but his throwing style limited him to be a reliever at the MLB level.

May has the skill set to truly be one of the most. feared relievers in the sport. Put May with his stuff at the backend of a bullpen and opposing hitters are going to have nightmares about having to face him. Imagine having to handle a wicked two-seamer that breaks in on the hands after seeing several Clayton Kershaw curveballs at your knees all night.

The numbers back up the case that May can make a great high-leverage reliever. Hitters have a .534 OPS the first time they face May in his career, a .580 OPS the second time they face him and a .792 OPS the third time they face him.

Among starting pitchers with as many innings pitched as May in that time frame, the Dodgers' right-hander has the seventh-lowest OPS against the first time through the order in the sport. If that doesn't scream reliever, it's hard to figure out what does.

Plus, the Dodgers have so much young pitching talent ready to make an impact at the big-league level. In the short-term future, the team has the likes of Ryan Pepiot, Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone and Emmet Sheehan, all of whom could all be on the big-league staff next year. The team has the pitching depth to make this change with May, and it seems like it'd benefit all parties.