Trevor May is back. Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow cost him all of 2017 and the first four months of this season. So far, the results have been good. Since returning to the Twins on July 31, May has stuck out 13 against two walks in 10 innings while posting a 2.53 ERA.
May hopes to continue to build up velocity and strength in what will be a pivotal month-plus for him. Once one of the game’s top pitching prospects, May turns 29 on September 23, so his time is now.
Insightful, thoughtful and well-rounded, May shared some candid thoughts with me on his injury, rehab, comeback and new life perspective.
DZ: Well, welcome back. Obviously, you’ve been back a couple weeks now doing what you love. How is life?
MAY: It’s good, it’s good to be back. I’m happy all that rehab stuff is over.
DZ: When you think back to your first (outing) back, what emotions did you feel out there?
MAY: There’s some excitement, like a debut feeling, but it quickly felt normal, in a matter of minutes. It was good to be on a big league mound at Target Field again, kind of felt right like it’s where I was supposed to be; it was a lot of relief. Happiness for taking a big step forward.
DZ: When you think back to your injury and your rehab and everything; what was the toughest time during that?
MAY: I think coming back and getting in games. The rehab appearances in Rochester…was a little bit of a mental blow. Especially when your stuff isn’t quite where you want it to be and you got to get one percent better every day and just try to get yourself back to trusting that you’re going to get guys out and the velocity started to climb a little bit and stuff got a little sharper. Sure enough, everyone told me it would, it started to get there. I’m still not quite back to I think where I’m going to be, but I’m pretty dang close. There was a time where, seeing a lot of 90s, 91s (mph fastballs) and wasn’t feeling too great; especially coming out of the bullpen and trying to be a power pitcher. Yeah, there was sleepless nights and some venting to the wife but, we got through it.
DZ: Obviously, the physical part of the rehab is really hard, it’s the grueling, grinding day in day out. What is the mental part of it? Do you question yourself that you can get back?
MAY: Yeah a little bit. Not everyone comes back from Tommy John, it is a high success rate, but coming back is relative. Some guys don’t come back the same. They’re a different pitcher. They gotta learn how to pitch again and it’s a long process back. You got to take nine steps back before you can get back to ten steps forward. You’re worried about that, you’re worried about getting forgot about. I got hurt in the big leagues so, I think establishing myself the time — and you don’t — you’re removed from being established and kind of not getting factored in the future plans. That’s a huge fear.
You don’t want to get stuck in the — not get another opportunity to prove that you’re a big league pitcher. That’s just something that was in and out of my head for a year. I had to push through that and find ways to continue moving forward. It wasn’t necessarily in my base buffer at the time. I’ve got that positive feeling with me every day. Like I said, there were days where I was like, “This isn’t working.” But now, hindsight is 20/20 and it’s all worth it.
DZ: How do you stay connected to the team going through all that?
MAY: As good as you can, try to be around. It was weird for me, it was a weird balance between, watching baseball was really tough for me, because again I can’t even watch in your spot; pitching in situations you thought that you would have been pitching in. You’re competitive side makes things almost unbearable to watch at times especially early. But it’s retraining being able to do baseball activities and participate in stuff; try to be one of the guys as much as you can and feel like you belong. I did the best I could. Without actually playing the game, there’s really no way to fully do that.
DZ: With the Tommy John surgery, do you talk to guys who you know had it? Do you go online and read about it or stay away from it?
MAY: All kinds of stuff. It’s what you’re supposed to be feeling and when is pretty universal. I got some really good information from Gibby (Kyle Gibson) and (Ryan) Vogelsong was in spring training when I got hurt and Zach Duke and (Mike) Magill and Alan Busenitz and all these guys had it. Thirty percent of us have it now. It’s all pretty routine. I had not a single set back both times I was there. I felt exactly what I was supposed to feel at every step, and they were right and that gives you hope.
DZ: One last thing, kind of a deeper question. Obviously, that changes you as a pitcher a little bit, but does it change you as a person going through something that tough?
MAY: Yeah, a little bit. It gives you perspective. What’s important to you and stuff. You can go out there and have a bad outing or whatever. It’s a little bit easier to get some perspective when you been in a position when you didn’t get the opportunity and then you thought you might not ever get the opportunity to get again. Those doubts are soul crushing and knowing that you’re back and that you can go out and do it. Helps things roll off your back a little bit more. It’s just like anybody who’s had a massive, life threatening injury or something life gets a little sweeter after that. Obviously not to that level, but the same premise, the worst case scenario you wouldn’t be able to play the game at all. That makes it a little bit sweeter when you get back.
See more of David Zingler’s 2018 player interviews:
July 26: Lindsay Whalen
June 29: Tanisha Wright
June 8: Logan Morrison
June 4: Mitch Garver
April 17: Brian Dozier
April 15: Ryan LaMarre
April 14: Addison Reed
January 27: Chip Lohmiller