“I thought so!”
It was a moment that provided a little bit of levity on an otherwise tough day. In the previous 100 or so hours, the Minnesota Twins had traded a pair of franchise cornerstones as well as a couple of respected voices in the clubhouse, and were coming off losing 6-2 to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night to fall nine games back in the American League Central.
Not much went right in the game, either.
Logan Morrison homered and Miguel Sano took some plate appearances that hinted he might be getting closer to his old self, but ultimately the Twins were unable to do much against Indians starter Trevor Bauer.
But in the ninth inning, big right-hander Trevor May took the mound in a big-league game for the first time in 689 days.
May’s first fastball registered 95.6 mph before he settled in more in the 93-94 range, and he admitted he was a bit amped up and even anxious when he took the mound.
And that’s where the humor came in. When a reporter asked if May experienced any anxiety when he climbed the mound that first time, Minneapolis Star Tribune reporter Lavelle E. Neal III’s Siri on his iPhone chimed in and answered before he could.
“I thought so!” the distinctly female voice chimed in just as the typically stoic, bass-voiced May started to answer the question. It broke up an otherwise dreary clubhouse atmosphere on a team headed in the opposite direction it expected to when it broke camp four months ago.
That wasn’t the last we’d hear of Siri on the night, either.
May said his nerves calmed a bit fairly quickly — though they ebbed and flowed throughout the inning — and the comfort on the mound returned when he struck out Indians No. 2 hitter Michael Brantley, who is a notoriously difficult hitter to fan.
Among the 161 qualified hitters this year, Brantley’s strikeout rate of 8.6 percent is second only the Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (5.0 percent).
That victory helped May feel grounded on the mound again. “He’s a hitter that guys don’t come back from 2-0 and strike him out very often,” May said. “It was a really, really sharp curveball. I was happy with that.”
May came in with a deficit and was only expected to try to keep the Indians in check, but it was far from mop-up work. He was facing Cleveland’s 1-2-3 hitters: Francisco Lindor, Brantley and Jose Ramirez.
“I just wanted to make some pitches,” May said of his mindset when he finished his warm-up pitches. “I mean, you get the top of their lineup. The top of their lineup is just as good as probably anyone in the league. Those are the guys you want to face. I have a job to go out and throw a zero so we can keep it in striking distance. I didn’t fully get the job done, but in terms of getting back on the mound and competing, that was fun. It was good.”
While the result wasn’t perfect, May felt he made some pretty good pitches even if he was a bit amped up to start the frame.
“A little bit,” May conceded when asked about the spike in his velo on his first heater to Lindor. “After that it was really just trying to force the ball into spots. There were just a couple misfires that flew nowhere near where I wanted them. Then I got a little bit excited and had to tone myself down. Then maybe on the next pitch, I got excited again…it was a little bit of a battle.”
May thinks the 95-96 mph numbers will return in due time, but for now he has enough velocity plus life on his fastball to help the Twins.
“It was coming out of my hand good,” May assessed. “The fastball had good life on it. I keep telling myself the scoreboard numbers probably are going to take time to get back to 100 percent me, those high numbers. But it still has enough life to get swings and misses. It’ll just keep coming. It’s only up from here. I’ll take that with a positive, and sometimes you’ve just gotta make a pitch.”
Siri chimed back in when Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press asked Trevor if he stopped to take in the environment around him on his way to the mound, and if it took him back to any part of his rehab in particular.
Another laughing outbreak ensued, but when May composed himself, he really invoked the images of some tough days along the way — not terribly surprising when considering it was almost two years since he’d last thrown in a big-league game.
“Everything,” May said about what he thought about from his rehab as he returned to Target Field. “I walked around the field today and kind of had flashbacks to working with (former Twins rehab coordinator Lanning Tucker). Running in the pool and my knee was sore from having the ligament taken out. Throwing out on a line before everybody else. It all came back. I tried to look around a little bit and say hey pat yourself on the back a little bit.
“But to be honest, that hasn’t been in the forefront of my mind,” he concluded. “That this is my first time back. I just want to do the job. I want to do the job over and over and over again and help this team win because that’s what I’m here for. It’s been a long time where I couldn’t compete at all to trying to get back myself to the level I believe I belong at. There have been some dark days so I’m regardless of what happened out there or how sharp I was, it was a bright spot in my career.”
May couldn’t help but say he’d come a long way since his debut, one he frequently brings up in an effort to keep the mood light.
“(Tuesday night) was nothing compared to my actual debut, so we’ll take it.”
Tuesday night’s appearance came 10 days shy of the four-year anniversary of his debut in Oakland, where he walked seven batters in two innings and took the loss.
A long way indeed.