Dodgers right-hander Dustin May reached a milestone on Monday, tweeting video of himself throwing at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.
First day of throwing complete! ✅ pic.twitter.com/bVsCytSswB— Dustin May (@d_maydabeast) November 2, 2021
It’s almost six months since May had Tommy John surgery, performed on May 11 in Los Angeles by Dodgers team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
“Six months ago today, I walked off the mound not knowing what I’d be told was wrong,” May posted on Instagram. “Today I got to throw a baseball again for the first time. Long road ahead but glad to get the first one out of the way! Can’t wait to be back.”
May, who turned 24 in September, was off to a promising start to his 2021 season, with a 2.74 ERA in five starts with 35 strikeouts and six walks in 23 innings, before leaving his May 1 start in Milwaukee with the elbow injury that ended his season.
“When you’re developing and now you get the year cut short, that impacts development,” manager Dave Roberts said in May, when Tommy John surgery was decided as the course of action. “What he’s done is he’s matured more as a ballplayer. His work in between starts has been more focused and consistent. To not be able to build on that is very unfortunate.”
While throwing within six months the procedure is a promising sign for May, the road back from Tommy John surgery is still daunting.
Looking at the extensive Tommy John surgery research done by Jon Roegele across all levels, 20 major league pitchers had the procedure since spring training 2019 and returned to the majors. Two returned within 12 months — John Brebbia, a reliever, and starter Dakota Hudson, who pitched in two games in the final 10 days of the 2021 regular season, totaling 8⅔ innings.
The only other pitchers during that timeframe to return to the majors faster than 16 months were reliever Seranthony Dominguez, starter Peter Lambert — like Hudson, pitching twice at the end of this season, with Lambert totaling 5⅔ innings — and starter Carlos Rodón, whose timetable could most closely resemble May’s.
Rodón had surgery on May 15, 2019, and his first game back was July 28, 2020, 14½ months later. Though Rodón only pitched in two games last year before landing back on the injured list, this time missing two months with shoulder soreness.
This season, Rodón had a 2.37 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 24 starts for the White Sox, making his first All-Star team and throwing a no-hitter.
In other words, it’s still going to be a while before May fully returns to the Dodgers. The earliest reasonable timetable still seems like after the 2022 All-Star break. But most importantly, making sure he’s healthy in the long term remains the goal.