ST. LOUIS – Right now, the only pitch Trevor May feels confident about is his changeup.
The Mets right-hander has allowed at least one run in four of his six relief appearances to start the season. The 10 hits he’s coughed up, including two home runs, has led to an 8.53 ERA over 6.1 innings. To top it off, there isn’t one specific problem May can point to as the reason behind his disappointing results. Instead, May said, it’s a little bit of everything – his delivery, his hand position, the zip on his fastball, you name it.
“I’m peak frustrated at the moment,” May said on Tuesday at Chase Field.
On Monday, May allowed the Cardinals to take a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning after giving up three singles and allowing a walk. His slider wasn’t sharp and his fastball wasn’t moving like he wanted it to. Against a tough St. Louis lineup that features Yadier Molia, Harrison Bader, Paul Goldschmidt, and Tyler O’Neill, those types of missteps can turn into disasters quickly. May fell behind in the count against Molina, which resulted in a base hit. He fell behind again to Bader, leading to another single. O’Neill got a piece of what May called his “worst pitch,” an 87 mph changeup that hung in the middle of the zone.
Fortunately for May, the Mets offense overcame his stumble in a thrilling ninth-inning comeback to beat the Cardinals. But, two-thirds of his arsenal still hasn’t felt right to May, and that’s a point of major frustration for the team’s high-leverage reliever and set-up man.
“I can’t be behind everybody, especially with a lineup like this,” May said. “This is probably a lineup that rivals ours in terms of just grinding out at-bats and making you throw tons of pitches. I was never going to go out there and just dominate them, you gotta make the pitches when you gotta make them.
“Can’t afford a lot of mistakes and I’m making more mistakes than I would like to, but I’m also getting beat a little bit more than I usually am — all together at the exact same time.”
Mets manager Buck Showalter said May is struggling with his command, which has led to the 32-year-old reliever trying a little too hard to overcome his struggles. May spent ample time poring over heat maps with pitching coach Jeremy Hefner at his locker on Tuesday, and that was in addition to the amount of time he spent watching video of his outing against the Cardinals.
May believes the shorter spring training – which was just over three weeks due to the owners’ lockout, versus the usual six-week ramp-up for pitchers and catchers – is at least part of the reason his velocity is slightly lower than where his fastball usually sits in April. Showalter echoed May, citing left-hander Joely Rodriguez’s recent uptick in velocity as a sign that pitchers are beginning to turn the corner following the shorter spring.
“I think sometimes you can want something too much,” Showalter said. “He wants to do the job we know he’s capable of and he knows he can do. It’s just not quite in that flow yet.”
May is grateful the Mets offense picked him up after he stumbled in his last two straight outings, including when he gave up two runs to the Diamondbacks in the series opener in Arizona this past Friday. The identity of the 2022 Amazin’s, a resilient group that entered Tuesday with 13 wins and a 4.5 game lead in the NL East, has featured a next man up mentality, and that has only made May want to work harder to improve his results. He believes his stuff is trending up and, after eight years in the majors, he’s trying to trust that his performance will even out over the course of the long 162-game season.
“I’m not going to be a liability to this team,” May said. “We’re too good for that.”
WELCOME BACK, TOMMY
The Mets signed reliever Tommy Hunter to a minor-league deal on Tuesday. The journeyman reliever rejoins the Mets after pitching four outings, plus a memorable first-career hit, for New York last season. The Mets traded Hunter to the Tampa Bay Rays in July to acquire Rich Hill. The 14-year major-league reliever underwent back surgery this offseason.
Showalter managed Hunter in Baltimore and formed a close relationship with the right-hander. On Tuesday, the Mets manager expressed his delight that Hunter is back on his team because the veteran is accountable and is happy to pitch anywhere, anytime he’s asked to.
“We’re going to give him an opportunity,” Showalter said of Hunter. “He’ll have to take it and run with it. He’s got a lot of competition.”
WHAT IS JAKE UP TO?
For now, the Mets are refraining from giving up that information. Jacob deGrom learned on Monday that the stress reaction on his scapula has healed considerably, and that he can begin “loading and strengthening” his shoulder again, according to a statement from the Mets.
The Mets ace is not cleared to start throwing yet, though, and it remains unclear if the team will wait to give him that go-ahead before he undergoes more tests in three weeks. Showalter and a Mets spokesman declined on Tuesday to offer more information on deGrom’s current “loading and strengthening” schedule.
“I talked to Jake today,” Showalter said. “One, he’s really upbeat and excited about the news that the healing process has taken place. With a guy you’ve had that long, you have a lot of imaging that you compare it to. So he’s chomping at the bit. He’s ready to go. He wants to come be a part of it and we do too. I’m not going to get into the specifics on when he’s going to join us.”