Dustin May heads to injured list in latest pitching setback for Dodgers

Dustin May delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants.
Dustin May was put on the injured list by the Dodgers on Saturday, six starts after his return from Tommy John surgery.
(Tony Avelar / Associated Press)

The Dodgers pitching staff is facing another major uncertainty as October nears.

Before Saturday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, right-hander Dustin May was put on the 15-day injured list because of lower back tightness, a move that will prevent him from pitching in the regular season again and brings his postseason availability into question.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, May has a muscle strain in his back. Manager Dave Roberts clarified the issue is on May’s left side.


Though May won’t be eligible to return before the team’s regular-season finale Oct. 5, the Dodgers hope the injury will clear up in the next couple of weeks and allow him to be active for the team’s National League Division Series, which begins Oct. 11.

“If you’re looking at the buildup to get him back, IL made sense,” Roberts said. “He should be back the week after the season, throwing and pitching again. We’re expecting him to be back for the DS.”

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Still, the Dodgers were already hoping for some injury luck with other important arms. Instead, Saturday’s surprise news only added to their growing list of pitching questions.

Even though May had been inconsistent since returning from Tommy John surgery last month, posting a 4.50 ERA in six starts and giving up five runs over four innings in his most recent outing Wednesday, the hard-throwing 25-year-old was still expected to play a major role in the team’s playoff pitching plans, probably as a starter given he is still coming off reconstructive elbow surgery.

Now, it’s unclear exactly what — or if — May will be able to contribute in the playoffs, putting him in the same position as fellow starter Tony Gonsolin and right-handed reliever Blake Treinen.

“Not ideal, not what we’re planning on,” Roberts said. “I thought we’d managed him well, and obviously with Dustin coming off Tommy John, the arm was the thing that we were very mindful of. So to have this setback, it’s where we’re at. We got to kind of deal with it and move on.”


A former third-round draft pick who played a key role on the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series team, May was beginning to blossom as a starter early in 2021 when his season was cut short by a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May throws against the San Diego Padres on Sept. 2.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

As May neared a return this season, beginning a throwing program in spring training before going out on a rehabilitation assignment in late July, Dodgers officials hoped he could serve as a de facto trade deadline addition to a roster with a lot of pitching depth but a relative lack of top-end starting talent.

But after returning in late August, May battled inconsistency in his half a dozen starts.

He had two good outings against the Miami Marlins, then two shakier ones against the San Diego Padres. On Sept. 16, he flashed dominance during five no-hit innings in San Francisco against the Giants. But then he regressed again against the Arizona Diamondbacks last week, in what was his shortest start of the year.

It was after that game that Roberts said he first heard about May’s back problem. The issue didn’t require an MRI or any other scans, according to Roberts, and the team’s plan is to have May begin throwing again in a few days.

As far as his potential postseason role: “That’s sort of contingent on how long he’s gonna be down, but I think it’s fair to say it’s shortened it, as far as the length that he can give us,” Roberts said. “But if he’s healthy, then it’s still a weapon.”

May, of course, will have to pitch better too — something he said bluntly after his last outing.

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That day, Roberts thought May was perhaps being too predictable with how he was attacking hitters, and stressed the pitcher needed to use his final couple of regular-season starts to “clean that stuff up.”

“Obviously,” Roberts added, “time is of the essence.”

Now, the Dodgers will have to wait and see if May will make it back in time for the playoffs.

And he isn’t the only one.

Before the news about May dropped Saturday, Roberts said there was a “small chance” Treinen would rejoin the team before the end of the regular season as he continued to battle shoulder tightness.

Like May, it’s possible that Treinen will recover in time to pitch in the playoffs, where he could bolster a bullpen that no longer has a defined closer after Craig Kimbrel was removed from the role this week.

However, his timeline remains uncertain, as he still hasn’t resumed throwing after being shut down earlier this week, according to Roberts.

Gonsolin seems to be trending in a more positive direction in his recovery from a forearm strain.

The right-hander threw a bullpen session Saturday that Roberts said went well, and will now head out on a rehab assignment with triple-A Oklahoma City to make a two-inning start Tuesday.

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If that goes well, he could return to the Dodgers’ big league roster to pitch sometime during the team’s final homestand.

It all could line up Gonsolin to potentially be able to pitch several innings in a playoff game, barring any unforeseen setbacks — which have been famous last words for the Dodgers this season.

For now, all they can do is hope their injured pitchers will be ready for the playoffs, and that no one else will be unexpectedly sidelined before they get there.

Short hops

Yency Almonte (elbow) could rejoin the Dodgers as soon as Wednesday, Roberts said. The right-handed reliever is scheduled to make one more rehab outing with Oklahoma City on Sunday first. … First baseman Freddie Freeman was scratched from the lineup Saturday because of a mild illness, Roberts said. Freeman could be back in the lineup as soon as Sunday.