May will start season in Twins' bullpen

Fifth-starter battle down to Milone, Nolasco and Berrios

May will start season in Twins' bullpen

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The competition for the fifth spot in the Twins' rotation is down to three, as right-hander Trevor May will open the year in the bullpen, general manager Terry Ryan said on Wednesday.

May was competing to be the club's fifth starter along with veterans Tommy Milone and Ricky Nolasco and No. 2 prospect Jose Berrios. But he struggled in his last outing, allowing four runs (three earned) over 2 2/3 innings against the Orioles on Saturday. He's scheduled to pitch on Thursday in a Minor League game, but Ryan said he'll no longer be stretched out as a starter. May is expected to make seven more appearances this spring, all in relief.

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"We are going to put him in the bullpen," Ryan said. "I don't know how they'll use him. If he throws two innings, three innings, I don't care. I kind of like those multi-inning relievers."

Manager Paul Molitor said the meeting with May went well, as he told the 26-year-old before Spring Training that this was a possible outcome. Molitor also liked what he saw from May in relief last year and believes the move made the most sense for the team.

"He made a nice transition from never having done it," Molitor said. "I think he kind of enjoyed the adrenaline rush of coming in for three outs. But the hard part is he has a four-pitch mix and it kind of speaks to starting. But we saw the velocity jump and I think he complements the people up here pretty well."

May pitched in both roles last year, combining to go 8-9 with a 4.00 ERA and 110 strikeouts and 26 walks in 114 2/3 innings.

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. 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) that focus on strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed, showed that May fared well as a starter, as his 3.35 FIP while in the rotation was second only to Tyler Duffey among Twins starters.

The Twins believe May still has potential as a starter, but they need help in their bullpen and have rotation depth. May gives them a much-needed power arm who can strike out batters to go along with closer Glen Perkins and setup relievers Kevin Jepsen and Casey Fien.

"I've said a couple times that I've envisioned him being a future starter," Ryan said. "There are other factors in the decision and who is in the rotation and how they've done. But I don't know why he couldn't be a future starter in the Major Leagues. He's got the pitches, he's got the strength. He's shown he can do it. But right now for this ballclub, the better fit is in the bullpen."

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.