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Red alert: Dodgers rookie starter Dustin May turns fiery on days he pitches

Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

Catcher Will Smith said May was the same way in the minor leagues, with one noticeable difference.

"He's a little louder (in the minors)," Smith said. "There's not as much of a crowd" to drown him out.

Said Stripling: "He's got some swagger. His eyes aren't deer in the headlights. He doesn't look intimidated by anyone."

In the clubhouse, May is a tougher read. He's relaxed on his days off, keen on adhering to a simple approach. He trusts the scouting reports provided by pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. He doesn't gorge on film or overwork in bullpen sessions.

"I've stuck to the basics," he said. "It's worked so far."

He jokes around with teammates. Sometimes he'll pull his curly locks of ginger hair into a bun with the help of a thick black headband. Though he's the youngest player on the active roster, he has fit into his new surroundings.

"There's always a learning curve for everyone," Smith said. "He's going through it, and he's handling it really well."

Roberts agrees.

"He's very inquisitive," he said. "He's just taking everything in."

 

Roberts said he lobbied in the spring for May to make the opening-day roster. Even though the third-round pick in the 2016 draft had made only six starts in double A in 2018, his heavy sinker looked ready for the big leagues. Instead, May started the year at double-A Tulsa. After 15 strong starts, including a 14-strikeout gem June 22, he was promoted to triple-A Oklahoma City. He was sought by other teams in trade talks leading up to the July 31 deadline, but no deal materialized. Now he's holding down a spot in the Dodgers rotation, getting a major league education while auditioning for a place on the postseason roster.

"We've talked to him about certain things with his sequencing (of pitches)," Roberts said. "He's watching Walker (Buehler), Clayton (Kershaw), different guys, watching their 'pens, watching how they pitch. He just wants to learn. That's a really good trait."

When it's May's day to pitch, his intensity surfaces. Roberts likened him to Rich Hill, famous for his polar opposite personalities on start days compared to every other day.

Two weeks into his big league career, he's not bending to the pressure. He's waking up on game day with a fiery focus.

"It feels the same," May said. "I don't know if there's necessarily an excitement, but just the knowledge of, 'I'm up here,' is different. A lot cooler."

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