May over back injury, driven to join rotation

Twins righty puts disappointing season behind him

May over back injury, driven to join rotation

MINNEAPOLIS -- Trevor May calls his final appearance of the 2016 season the low point of his career.

The Twins' right-hander had missed a month with a recurring back injury, but worked hard to return down the stretch, only to record one out against the Indians on Sept. 11, walking two and giving up a double while exiting the mound with back pain. It ended his season with a 5.27 ERA in 44 appearances, but instead of looking back on last year and moping, May's confidence has never been higher.

He spent the rest of the season and offseason trying to plot out his goals not just for this season, but where he sees himself in 10 years. He's also set on making the rotation this year to get his first chance to start since 2015.

"I'm fed up," May said. "For two years, I've seen myself as a person and I haven't even gotten there yet and haven't really moved in that direction fast enough. And a lot of that has to do with inherent confidence and conviction. I believe conviction bleeds into everything we do."

May escapes bases-loaded jam

May, 27, was groomed as a starter his whole career before moving to the bullpen in July 2015, and his issue that season is he might've pitched too well in relief. May had been figuring things out as a starter, going at least six innings in six of his previous seven outings, but a rough outing in Milwaukee and his rookie status meant he was headed to the bullpen.

With his power arm and mix of four pitches, he posted a 2.88 ERA in relief the rest of the way, and it likely sunk his chances to start in '16. He competed for a spot in the rotation in Spring Training, but it was mostly lip service, barring an injury to a projected starter.

The Twins were too tempted by his power arm in the back of the bullpen, but it was ultimately his back that did him in. May's left side of his back tightened up because of his mechanics and not properly taking care of it by trying to be ready to pitch in relief every day. May struck out 60 in 42 2/3 innings, but was plagued by inconsistency and a balky back.

"Last year was complete garbage for me," May said. "I want to throw it out and move on. I want to prove to myself I can either do it or not to do it and move on. But I'm a firm believer in my ability to be a starter. I'm planning on going out and taking that spot and leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that's where I'm supposed to be."

May fans Napoli to end the 9th

May, who has worked with a Pilates instructor this offseason, believes the back issues are behind him and that starting would help the issue because he'd be throwing at a lesser intensity and would have time in between outings to take care of his back.

"I know I have the stuff to dominate a team," May said. "I'm tired of dancing around stuff the last two years. I'm ready to establish myself as a guy you can give the ball to in Game 1 of a playoff series."

May, though, understands that there's still a chance he could be relegated to the bullpen again this year, and if that happens, he's willing to embrace it, but knows he'll have to be smarter about his health.

"If it comes down to things not going my way, put me back out there and I'll throw the ninth," May said. "Seriously. The eighth or whatever role it is. I want to pitch with one-run leads. I'll pitch out of the 'pen if I have to, but I'd also like to pitch in the eighth with a one-run lead as a starter."

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. 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.