Game 17, Twins at Mariners
James Paxton vs. Trevor May, 6:10pm
Felix, man. There’s nothing like watching Felix when he’s got his best stuff, except maybe watching Felix with his best stuff in a playoff game. Get on that, M’s.
Today the M’s face local kid Trevor May. The righthander grew up in Kelso, and the Phillies signed him out of a UW commitment. He excelled in the Philadelphia system, pitching around a few too many walks by racking up strikeouts thanks to a plus fastball and a solid change-up. Like many young pitchers, he hit a bit of a snag in his first trip through AA. In 2012, May walked 78 and plunked another 11 in 149+ innings. To make matters worse, his rising FB led to lots of elevated contact, and that produced 22 home runs. May was clearly still a prospect, but one with plenty of question marks. After that season, the Phillies flipped him to Minnesota in the Ben Revere trade. His second tour of duty in the Eastern League was a bit better, but his walk rate was still over 10%.
Some tweaks heading into 2014 helped May avoid the long ball, and while his walk rate was still troubling, he was still striking out nearly a batter an inning. May got called up to the Twins in August, and made his debut against Oakland. The results were not encouraging: 7 walks, no K’s, and 4 runs in just 2 innings. In his first 5 MLB starts, he pitched 5 innings just once, and gave up 23 runs in 19 innings. The Twins apparently made some mechanical changes and May finished strong, with a 10K, no walk performance against the White Sox and then a 7K, 1 BB game against Detroit to close out the year. His season numbers were ugly, but there were some encouraging signs heading into 2015.
Twins manager Paul Molitor thought May struggled with his emotions last year, so the Twins worked with May on avoiding big innings by staying positive. In general, these are a subset of “best shape of his life” stories we hear every spring – every pitcher has a “new attitude” or “renewed focus” or some such. There’s also no way to apportion credit/blame to something like “focus”, but through two starts in 2015, May’s walked only 1. He’s not just aping Phil Hughes, though. May still throws his share of balls, but he’s able to get swings on a fair number of them.
The primary reason is his change, a pitch BA lists as the best in the system. It’s got somewhat unusual movement for a change – it’s got almost as much vertical rise as his four-seam fastball, and as much vertical rise as any change in baseball (along with Danny Duffy, Clayton Kershaw and Chris Tillman). In his brief career, that change gets whiffs on 43% of swings, and batters swing at it over half the time – not bad considering May’s crippling control problems last year. This season, he’s using a sinker a bit more, and he’s cut back on his slider – the slider was easily his worst pitch in 2014. His primary breaking ball is a curve with good horizontal movement – May’s low 3/4 delivery probably helps.
1: Jackson, CF
2: Smith, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Cruz, RF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Morrison, 1B
7: Ackley, LF
8: Zunino, C
9: Miller, SS
The Rainiers beat Albuquerque 3-2, as Jordan Pries put together a great start, going 6 1/3 IP with 7 Ks and allowing 2 runs. Chris Taylor went 2-4 with a double, and Carlos Quentin doubled as well for his first Tacoma hit. Roenis Elias starts tonight in Sacramento.
Edwin Diaz made up for his one poor start of the year, blanking San Jose over 5 1/3 IP.
Jackson and Clinton were rained out.