"It's what I trained my whole life to do, and I think watching baseball playoffs after the season kind of lit a fire -- I want to be a guy who takes the ball in Game 1 of a series," May said after his first outing of the spring in Wednesday's 7-4 win over the Red Sox. "I want to be a guy that the team can hop on my back and I can pitch deep into games. That's what I've always dreamed of being, and I don't think that flames out. So I'm going to try my best to take a role like that and help the team."
• Spring: Tickets | Ballpark | 40-man roster | NRIs
May's quest to win the final spot in the rotation this spring started out on the right foot in his Grapefruit League debut on Wednesday, as he tossed two scoreless innings against a Red Sox lineup that included several regulars such as Mookie Betts, Dustin Pedroia, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez.
But May has to beat out veterans Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone, as well as top pitching prospect Jose Berrios for that fifth-starter's role. May knows it won't be easy, but he appreciates that manager Paul Molitor considers him as one of eight starting pitchers in camp, even though he's currently piggybacking right-hander Phil Hughes, who got the start on Wednesday.
"I'm trying to take the same tack I'd take as a starter during the season and trying to simulate it as much as possible, even throwing second," May said. "But it was kinda weird. I was used to getting up real quick, and I can do that right now. But taking things from both roles and applying them together is kind of a funny thing."
According to traditional stats, May fared better in 31 1/3 innings as a reliever than in his 83 1/3 innings as a starter last year, as he had a 2.87 ERA and 1.21 WHIP as a reliever compared to a 4.43 ERA and 1.38 WHIP as a starter. But advanced stats such as FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) show that May was also more than capable as a starter, as his 3.35 FIP while in the rotation was second only to Tyler Duffey among Twins starters.
It's why May finished second among Twins pitchers in Fangraphs.com's version of Wins Above Replacement last year, racking up 2.3 WAR. So while he'd be a much-needed flamethrower with a high strikeout rate in the bullpen, the Twins are not just giving lip service when they say May is competing for a spot in the rotation this spring.
"He's trying to make an impression as a starter and he knows our feeling about that trying to get him extended early in camp," Molitor said. "We'll see how other guys do in camp and then we'll make a decision to get him ready for whatever role he's going to fill. But he is a candidate. If I end up with six or seven healthy starters pitching well, we have to prioritize shaping the entire staff and not just the rotation."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.