The Mets provided an update on injured reliever Trevor May on Wednesday morning.
It sounds ominous.
The imaging tests done on May revealed a stress reaction on the lower portion of his right humerus, the upper arm bone between the shoulder and elbow joints, per general manager Billy Eppler. The stress reaction has caused inflammation in the area, and the immediate plan is for May to discontinue throwing for approximately four weeks.
The team will do more imaging at that point and re-evaluate his plan of care.
“I’m not feeling 100% healthy,” May said after his most recent outing on Monday, which will be his last for the foreseeable future. “It’s hard to compete when you’re worried about whether or not something is going to hurt to throw. It’s to the point where I’m not very comfortable throwing my best pitches.”
The root of that problem has now been identified, but it’s unclear where May will fit into the Mets’ bullpen when he returns, just as anything in Major League Baseball is hard to predict four weeks in advance.
“By the end, I was just hoping that the ball was hit at somebody,” May said of his one inning, two-run performance on Monday. “That’s no way to throw in a major league game. I don’t deserve it, but my teammates definitely don’t deserve that.”
In his absence, the Mets will likely look for Adam Ottavino, Seth Lugo and Trevor Williams — all veteran, right-handed, middle relief/setup guys like May — to shoulder a bigger load. May’s injury also makes the early season emergence of Drew Smith and Chasen Shreve (who, by Wins Above Replacement, are currently the best relievers on the team) all the more important. Smith, a righty, and Shreve, a lefty, are likely both headed for higher-leverage situations as long as they keep missing barrels and May is still on the shelf.
“It’s as frustrating as anything in my life right now,” said May, who estimated that the last time he felt this crummy was five years ago. “I’m just trying to feel good. I’ve been doing everything under the sun, every day, to get ready.”
After the Mets’ loss on WednesdayMay spoke at length about his injury and how he plans to come back from it.
“The way that relievers are, we’re never out there like, ‘My arm feels great today’”, May said. “It’s always a spectrum. The last thing you want to do is go out there and three pitches in be like, ‘Ehh, I don’t feel great.’ I gotta get right, and making that decision is one of the hardest things to do in this game.”
May said he does take some strange comfort in knowing what the problem is, lightheartedly saying that before the diagnosis, he was wondering if he was just plain old bad. The 32-year-old plans to do all his rehab in New York and stay very present around the Mets, saying that it’s a special group and he doesn’t ever want to feel like he’s “catching up with the vibe”. May was also asked if he can point to shortened spring training as a potential cause for the stress reaction.
“Can’t rule it out,” he responded. “Stress injuries are usually because you ramped to a level. Going from indefinite lockout to having to start in three days, you can keep up a certain level of conditioning, but there’s nothing better than knowing when that day is going to be that you have to be at 100%.”
In 2017, May had Tommy John surgery. He said he’s also had a stress reaction in his back (similar to what Jacob deGrom has been dealing with), but has never had an injury like this in his arm. Fortunately, he says the injury does n’t affect his daily life. The pain only flares up when he throws.
“I’m glad we got it figured out,” May said of the injury. “I’m glad I have a rehab path set out in front of me. We have some really clear milestones to hit in order to get out there and be successful again. With all that taken into account, that is a silver lining. You just give me a list of stuff, and I’ll do it.”
Relievers are constantly pitching through little bouts of soreness, ineffectiveness, or both. A guy like May — who’s been a full-time reliever since 2016 — has spent a lot of time in bullpens. Throughout that process, he’s learned valuable lessons about the life of a reliever and how they operate.
“I’ve never really felt a lot of soreness in my shoulder, for example,” he laid out. “Everyone’s got their area [of soreness] based on how they throw. That was another kink in the hose. Is this normal, or is it more than usual? You’re just hopscotching that line as a reliever. Is this just, go and grind it out, even if you don’t feel your best? You’ve gotta get outs. Or is this going to keep affecting you over and over again if you don’t fix it?”
The clear plan now is to fix it, and the first step is for the big man to just rest. For the Mets, the post-injury version of May could play a huge role in their postseason aspirations. For the man, who’s in the last year of his two-year contract, how he looks in his first few outings upon return could give him millions of reasons to keep hopscotching that line.