Back in late March, when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts conducted his spring training exit interview with Dustin May, the lanky red-maned right-handed pitching prospect, he challenged him. He told him to focus on pitching well, on improving, on continuing his rapid ascendance.
Four months later, the Dodgers, sooner than they envisioned, rewarded May for his swift progression this week when he was notified he was going to Los Angeles to make his major league debut Friday against the San Diego Padres.
“It’s definitely a huge surprise,” the 21-year-old May said Thursday. “And I’m definitely excited for the experience.”
May said he was informed about 45 minutes after Wednesday’s trade deadline. He had just been the subject of rampant trade rumors for the second consecutive summer. Last year, it was connected to the Dodgers’ pursuit of Manny Machado. This year, it was Felipe Vazquez. But the Dodgers kept the 6-foot-6 May — and the rest of their top prospects — with the intention of giving him an opportunity this season.
On Friday, the chance will come as a starter in Ross Stripling’s spot in the rotation and he could get more starts, depending on Stripling’s recovery. But, ultimately, the Dodgers envision May — and fellow pitching prospect Tony Gonsolin — as a bullpen option in October after they failed to acquire a top-tier reliever at the trade deadline.
“I think every opportunity is an audition for somebody who is a young player who hasn’t had an opportunity to prove himself at this level,” Roberts said. “He’s earned it. He’s earned this opportunity to pitch here.”
May earned the chance by excelling in five starts since joining triple-A Oklahoma City in late June. The hard-throwing right-hander compiled a 2.30 ERA across 27 1/3 innings. He last pitched Sunday, when he gave up one run and three hits over six innings.
The success, May outlined, is derived from a conviction he’s developed over his brief professional career since the Dodgers drafted him in the third round in 2016. May had been lightly recruited out of high school in Texas. He garnered only one Division I scholarship offer, from Texas Tech, before breaking out his senior year. It took time to build the confidence to match the stuff. Three years later, he will pitch at Dodger Stadium for the team with the best record in the major leagues, assured he belongs at the highest level.
“Just getting to become more confident behind all my pitches and knowing that I’m going to get the guys out,” May said. “That’s one of the biggest things that I’ve learned through my minor league journey, just knowing that the stuff I have is going to get the guy in front of me out. I feel like that’s part of my success.”