It’s been a month since Trevor May became a relief pitcher, and a couple of weeks since he believed it even possible, let alone likely, that he would return to the Twins rotation this season. But May, crowded out of the starting staff when Ervin Santana’s suspension ended, has made sure he’s not wasting the bullpen experience.

“I think I’m growing as a pitcher out there. It’s beneficial working in one-inning stretches,” the 25-year-old righthander said. “I’ve learned some things that will help me as a starter.”

For instance, May has discovered that while strikes are a starter’s best weapon, relief pitchers can make smart use of pitching out of the strike zone. “You react to the batter a little more. You have to be a little more fine, depending on the situation, and that’s been good for me,” May said. “Starters just learn to fill the zone, but when you’re a reliever, there are times, especially in big situations, when you might throw a bunch of balls, just to take advantage of a hitter’s aggressiveness.”

The lessons must be working. May has excelled in his new role, and has become manager Paul Molitor’s top choice lately to set up closer Glen Perkins by pitching the eighth inning. Except for a couple of needs-to-get-work outings lately, May has pitched in the eighth inning or later since July 22, and he has gone 7⅓ innings without giving up a run.

“He’s not afraid to challenge guys. He’s got a little extra giddy-up than he had as a starter,” Molitor said of May, who has reached 95 mph as a reliever. “He’s got a four-pitch mix, and he’s just trying to learn how much he needs to use that mix.”

Buxton sent down

Byron Buxton’s left thumb is healthy again, but with Aaron Hicks batting .313 since the All-Star break, there is no hurry to rush him back to the majors, especially since he hasn’t played in six weeks. So the Twins activated their top prospect on Monday and immediately optioned him to Class AAA Rochester, a technical move that saves the Twins service time Buxton was accruing while on the disabled list, and removes the 20-day deadline he had on his rehab stint.


• To make room for Buxton on the Red Wings roster, the Twins released former Gophers infielder Nate Hanson, a Chanhassen native who batted .254 in eight seasons in the Twins’ system.