GLENDALE, Ariz. – Is it Opening Day yet? That’s what Trevor May keeps asking himself.
Yeah, these next 20 weeks are going to be the longest of May’s life. The Twins righthander, acquired in the Ben Revere trade nearly a year ago, is biding his time in the Arizona Fall League, throwing strikes and counting days, trying to be patient as he awaits his next opportunity to take the mound in a game that counts.
A Twins game.
“I really believe it’s only a matter of time now,” May said.
Minnesota sent four pitchers to the AFL last month, including Alex Meyer, their top mound prospect. And while Meyer has impressed a sea of scouts with his command, it’s May who has emerged most convinced he’s ready to pitch at this level — and the one above it.
“I’ve put myself in position to be successful at a higher level,” the 24-year-old Washington native said. “I think I’m there. I’m learning how to pitch hitters, how to throw my slider, how to get ahead of hitters, how to repeat my delivery. I feel like all that stuff is at, or close to, where it needs to be in order to be successful. The only box left to check is just executing and making the results happen.”
Well, that’s the trick, isn’t it? May understands the Twins were underwhelmed, even mildly disappointed, that his 2013 season at Class AA New Britain, including a 4.51 ERA and 1.424 runners reaching base per inning, appeared basically the same as his 2012 season at the same level. But May sees improvement — indeed, giant steps forward — that a stat line doesn’t capture. With his work in the AFL, limited by the Twins to only a couple of innings per week because of his summer workload and some minor tendinitis, he’s convinced.
“Things are falling into place,” May said. “I really feel that with the weapons I have — I’m throwing four pitches now, and my command is improving — I can be a very good starter. I’m going into spring training with the mind-set that I’m on top of the world and I’m about to have my best season. I’m going to compete for a spot [in Minnesota]. I really believe the results will be there.”
Scouts aren’t quite that certain, but they share May’s enthusiasm for his growing repertoire, especially his changeup, a pitch that May says is becoming his best.
“It’s a swing-and-miss pitch. I feel I can use it as a strikeout pitch,” said May, particularly because his fastball has remained in the 92-94 miles per hour range in Arizona.
The right stuff
Of course, that’s 3-5 mph slower than Meyer’s fastball, a pitch that had scouts buzzing after the former first-round pick touched 98 in the Fall-Stars Game last week. Meyer remains among the 10 best starting pitching prospects in the minors, according to Baseball America, and he’s showing it here.
In addition to his three shutout innings in the Fall-Stars game, Meyer allowed only one hit and one walk over 5⅔ innings last Friday, striking out seven. Meyer leads the AFL in strikeouts with 25, and he has a reasonable shot at being named the league’s outstanding pitcher.
“He’s looked lights-out from the first day,” said Glendale manager Jeff Smith, who also managed Meyer and May at New Britain last summer. “There’s a lot to be excited about.”
Yet Meyer, who missed two months of the 2013 season because of shoulder soreness that he said has completely disappeared, is keeping his excitement in check. The AFL, with its lineups full of top prospects, has shown him where he must improve.
“I still need to refine my fastball command,” the 23-year-old Indiana native said. “I feel pretty confident in my curveball, and my changeup’s getting better, but I have to know I can throw strikes with the fastball. I know what I need to do to keep getting better. Hopefully I can get a little stronger in the weight room this winter, and keep this going a little bit.”
A path to follow