ARLINGTON, TEXAS – Trevor May winces when he looks at his statistics. They say he’s having a pretty mediocre season, more hits than innings, and way too many runs. A 5.46 ERA generally consigns a relief pitcher to mop-up work.
But the Twins righthander, who missed nearly a month because of a sore back, believes the numbers lie, or at least obscure an important truth: That except for a 10-day stretch, when his mechanics were off-kilter and his pitches hung in the strike zone, “I’ve felt like I’m absolutely in control out there.”
Well, it’s a classic statistical manipulation — remove the failures and you look like a success, right? — but he might have a point. May has let runs score in 11 of his 32 appearances, and multiple runs five times. Five of the bad outings, including three of the worst, and more than half of his runs-allowed total came consecutively in late May, when, he said, “I was all out of whack,” mechanical issues that eventually led to his back problems.
Remove those games? The ERA is 2.73, and he has 39 strikeouts in 26 innings. Those are the numbers of a potential closer.
Funny thing about that: It’s occurred to May, too. He’s not looking to steal anyone’s job — specifically, Brandon Kintzler, who has gone 5-for-5 in save situations since inheriting the closer’s role last month — but he likes the idea of being entrusted with the ninth inning eventually. He wanted to be a starter during spring training but is focused on making the best of his role in the bullpen.
“If you’re going to be out there, you want to be the guy they give the ball to when they need it the most. I see myself being able to do it and being that guy every day, whenever that time might come,” May said. “I feel like the game’s over when I take the ball. That’s definitely something that I would like to do in the future, but it’s all about getting that opportunity.”
It’s not going to happen anytime soon, manager Paul Molitor said, not with Kintzler emerging as a real find. He would like to return May to the seventh- or eighth-inning role he envisioned when the season opened, setting up Kintzler instead of Glen Perkins or Kevin Jepsen. But that’s not to say that Molitor won’t try new things as the season goes on.
“We’re going to have to include some of those type of decisions as we get deeper into the second half. I wouldn’t [call it] auditioning, but exposing people to different situations to see how they respond,” Molitor said.
And, Molitor admitted, you never know when that job might come open once more.
“I’m not sure what’s going to happen to Kintz, how things might work out,” Molitor said. “I would imagine he’s one of those guys who’s going to get a lot of interest from other teams as the trade deadline approaches.”
• While his teammates are eager for a four-day break, Eduardo Nunez will be busy. He’s not complaining, of course — being selected as an All-Star can be a career-changing event for a player who until this season was only a part-time player. “It will add to how he feels about himself going forward,” Molitor said. “Making your first All-Star team helps your confidence in who you are as a major league player.” With travel and All-Star obligations eating up much of the break for Nunez, Molitor gave the infielder the afternoon off Sunday, the first game Nunez had sat out since May 17.
• After considering reshuffling his rotation for the second half, Molitor said he decided instead to leave the order alone and give each of his starters a roughly equal number of days off. That means Ervin Santana, Tyler Duffey and Kyle Gibson will start next weekend’s series with Cleveland at Target Field, and Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone will wait until the next road trip begins in Detroit.