Los Angeles Dodgers starter Dustin May, one of the game's brightest young pitchers, will undergo season-ending Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament, the team announced on Monday.
The surgery is scheduled for Tuesday, May 11 in L.A. and will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache. The recovery timetable usually falls somewhere between 12 and 16 months, a prognosis that could have May back for the stretch run of the 2022 season. May, 23, isn't scheduled to reach free agency until after the 2026 season.
"I feel for him, most important," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "For our ballclub, it's a big blow. But we have a lot of talented players and we just have to find a way to fill that void."
The Dodgers began the season with an abundance of high-caliber starting pitching but are currently down to four healthy starters -- Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer and Julio Urias. David Price, who was operating out of a bullpen role, is nursing a hamstring injury that will keep him out four to six weeks. And Tony Gonsolin is still on the injured list, though he has begun the process of being built back up as a starting pitcher.
Gonsolin could return before the end of May, at which point he would essentially take May's spot. Price is expected to return as a reliever. In the meantime, the Dodgers -- forced into a split doubleheader on Tuesday after Monday's game from Wrigley Field was postponed due to inclement weather -- might utilize an assortment of relievers every time a fifth starter is needed.
Another option could be to start Bauer every four days, as opposed to the traditional five. Bauer has long welcomed the opportunity to operate under that schedule, stating that his body has proved capable of remaining at an optimum level with one fewer day off between starts.
"We've thought about it, yeah," said Roberts, who has also previously dismissed the possibility of utilizing top prospect Josiah Gray as a spot starter. "There's a scenario that it could happen. I think we do a good job of entertaining certain things, and certainly Trevor has talked about that."
May has a 2.93 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 27 walks in 113 2/3 regular-season innings over the past three years, wowing fans and evaluators with his assortment of triple-digit sinkers and devastating cutters. May won the fifth spot of the Dodgers' rotation coming out of spring training and appeared to reach yet another level in his development in 2021, with a 2.74 ERA through five starts.
He exited his Saturday start against the Milwaukee Brewers with pain in his right arm and underwent an MRI while the team was in Chicago on Monday morning, which revealed a UCL tear significant enough to necessitate surgery.
Roberts said there were no warning signs leading up to that injury. May's pregame warm-ups went well, as did his between-starts work days earlier. Nine pitches before exiting, May threw a fastball 99.7 mph. But his last one came in at 94.3 mph, his slowest fastball all season. May noticeably winced and motioned to the dugout.
It'll be a long time before he throws another pitch.
Roberts spoke to May earlier on Monday and said he was "emotionally obviously down."
"When you hear kind of the ultimate decision, outcome, as far as having to have surgery, it's obviously very disappointing. He's handling it like a pro, wants to figure out what's the next step after surgery, and kind of attack it that way. But, yeah, I think disappointed, certainly."