Dodgers’ Dustin May has flexor strain and rotation has a bleak future

LOS ANGELES — Dustin May’s career has always been about potential. This electric right arm. The wicked moves and turns on each of his offerings. The kind of fire that shoots out of him at every turn, the red curls falling from his cap.

On-field dominance came in tantalizing doses. Wednesday was meant to be a continuation of a hot streak: In his first eight starts, he had posted a 2.68 ERA and looked like one of the best starters in the sport.

Instead, May afternoon went 16 pitches in a 7-3 win over the Twins. Not one step exceeded 95.8 mph, an alarming sight from a right-hander known for his speed and ridiculous movements. After a quick chat off the bench with manager Dave Roberts and pitching coach Mark Prior after the top of the first, May grabbed her things and disappeared down the tunnel to the Dodger Stadium clubhouse. His elbow was barking again.

The 25-year-old was coming into his own, just 14 starts removed from Tommy John surgery which threatened his rise just as it began. Now he will be missing at least a month and likely longer, after initial tests indicated May had suffered a pronator flexor strain, Roberts said.

May had been through some degree of pain throughout rehab, league source says Athleticism, but I thought it was a normal part of his recovery from surgery. Wednesday’s tests showed a grade 1 flexor tendon strain, which had not healed properly during rehabilitation, leading to some of the discomfort.

“(It’s) not great right now,” Roberts said, with May having already left the stadium to get an MRI.

Those tests showed the injury did not appear to be impacting his surgically reconstructed ulnar collateral ligament, league sources said. Athleticism. May will be injected with platelet-rich plasma into the tendon to promote healing in the area in hopes of avoiding season-ending surgery. If the injection works properly, the source said, the hope is that May could return within four to six weeks.

The right-hander has blossomed this spring, taking advantage of his first normal offseason in years to look like a proper rotational starter. He had revamped his arsenal by changing the shape of some of his breakout locations and altering his use of the terrain, and finding striking results. May looked like the pitcher he was promised to be when he appeared as a fireball pitcher prospect. This progression took a huge detour on Wednesday afternoon, descending the steps of the dugout with him.

“Right now, Dustin feels like when he takes the mound, he’s the best guy and he’s going to go out there and dominate,” Roberts said Wednesday morning, just hours before May took his unfortunate departure.

May hasn’t felt anything on any particular pitch, Roberts said, and hasn’t felt anything but typical soreness in his work between starts since pitching the seventh inning in a win. against the Padres last Friday at Dodger Stadium.

It didn’t ease the anxiety of seeing May’s afternoon end so abruptly. He became the second Dodgers starter in less than a week to quit a start after an inning due to injury after Noah Syndergaard’s bloody finger interrupted his Milwaukee start. Syndergaard lasted just four innings Monday as the Dodgers’ starters combined to pitch nine innings in three games against the Twins.

Just passing Wednesday was a chore that required bringing in 31-year-old right-hander Dylan Covey to make his first major league appearance in three seasons after spending the last few years in the CPBL in Taiwan.

“A few years ago, I never thought I would be back in this situation,” said Covey, a former White Sox Rule 5 draft pick whose last taste of the majors came on eight outings in a pandemic-shortened season for the Red Sox.

The Southern California native went four innings (allowing two earned runs) to save a beleaguered Dodgers bullpen that had to cover 21 of the series’ 30 innings after Monday’s game went into overtime. The Dodgers are in the middle of a 13-game-in-13-day streak.

More reinforcements will soon be needed for a rotation that suddenly feels strained in May’s absence. Gavin Stone is the likeliest option to take May’s turn in the rotation in the meantime; the prospect made his league debut earlier this month. Stone would in turn be normal if he took May’s next start and comes out of a Triple-A outing in which he struck out 10.

The rest of the depth remains uncertain if May misses more time. Michael Grove (groin) and Ryan Pepiot (oblique) began facing hitters in their rehabilitation. Both pitchers would need a minor league rehab assignment before they could reasonably be expected to continue through the stretch run. The continued health of Syndergaard, who sailed through his Monday start with no further issues with his finger, suddenly becomes paramount.

But none of those starters showed the spin-changing impact that May kept flashing.

“Obviously he’s a big part of this year,” Roberts said of May. “And he still could be. But right now, to have that speed bump again, I know he’s disappointed.

(Photo by Dustin May: Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today)

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