To that point, May had been 4-7 though 15 starts with a 4.37 ERA and was struggling, having lost his last four decisions. Seventeen appearances out of the bullpen later, May’s demotion has undoubtedly paid off for the Twins and the club might wind up reaping the benefits of it for years down the road.
May has been awesome as a reliever so far, posting a 2.00 ERA over 18 innings. He has fanned 20 batters over those appearances. His strikeout to walk ratio has improved from 4.06 as a starter to 6.67 in the bullpen and opponents batting average is down 47 points against May. Minnesota was completely confident in the his ability to succeed in his new role and the club has never been shy about letting May enter in key situations. His first relief outing came in the 10th inning of a tie game and he’s already accounted for a perfect 4-0 record out of the bullpen. The 25-year-old was trusted to pitch three days in a row for the first time this weekend and made easy work of it, allowing just one hit and no runs over 3.1 innings against the high scoring Baltimore Orioles’ offense.
Perhaps the Twins were thinking about the future when they decided to move May to the bullpen. There just might not be room for him in the rotation as soon as next season. Phil Hughes, Santana and Ricky Nolasco are all under contract next season and are surely guaranteed spots in the starting rotation as long as they are healthy. Twenty-one-year old Jose Berrios, currently ranked the 23rd best prospect league wide on MLBPipeline.com, has been dominating Triple-A recently and probably has his name on a starting spot next season. Another youngster, 24-year old Tyler Duffey has been great ever since a miserable Major League debut in Toronto, allowing just two earned runs over 13.1 innings with 15 strikeouts in his two starts since. Twenty-eight-year old lefty Tommy Milone, who is 6-3 with a 3.69 ERA in 16 starts this year, is also under team control next year.
With more then enough options to help fill an entire rotation, this points towards May’s move to the bullpen being more than just a temporary thing to get the Twins though the 2015 season. This is a good problem to have.
Minnesota was sending out the likes of Sam Deduno and Pedro Hernandez in their starting rotation in the past, pitchers that May could outdo any day without question, but now things are different. May would have been one of the top pitchers in the Twins lackluster rotation three years ago, but with the outlook of the roster so much better now, if he kept going on the path towards being a starter there is a good chase he would have been left out.
The Twins now have the best of both worlds with May exceling in his new role. Minnesota will have a good rotation next season with or without him, and now the team also has a promising young arm in front of All-Star closer Glen Perkins, who was also brought up as a starter by the Twins before finding success in the back of their bullpen.
But the future might have to wait a little while with the Twins only a game and a half out of the second American League wild card spot after sweeping the Orioles this weekend. Minnesota enters another important series on the road against the Tampa Bay Rays, who are also fighting for the same wild card spot. In what is expected to be a highly competitive series, there’s no doubt that Molitor will had his new standout reliever the ball at some point in a big situation.