August 3, 2010
By David Driver
For the Daily News
Used with permission
HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Soon after he was demoted from the high Single-A Florida State League to the low Single-A South Atlantic League, Kelso grad Trevor May had a serious talk with his new pitching coach, Steve Schrenk.
Schrenk drew on his own roller coaster experiences as a minor league pitcher when discussing May's transition. Schrenk went on to pitch in the Major Leagues for the Phillies in 1999.
Now the minor league mentor is helping May salvage his season, which began with a rough introduction to the Florida State League with Clearwater earlier this year.
In a start on July 27, May tied a Lakewood BlueClaws team record when he struck out 14 batters in Salisbury, Md., against the Delmarva Shorebirds, an affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. May pitched seven innings with no walks and just four hits allowed to grab the win.
"I was able to get ahead in the count," said May, who turns 21 in September. "There were a lot of first-pitch strikes and a majority of those were fastballs, getting ahead early. The curve felt good that day. I spotted the change up. Once the hitters saw I could get the off-speed pitches over for strikes it opened up everything else. Everything kind of feel into place."
Delmarva manager Ryan Minor, a former third baseman with the Baltimore Orioles, was impressed with May. "He had all of his pitches working," said Minor, who played third the night Cal Ripken Jr. ended his consecutive game streak at 2130. "He kind of blew it by us. We didn't do a lot against him. He has a big arm. He has big league stuff. You have to go out and battle him."
The 6-foot-5 right-hander is rated the No. 5 prospect in the Philadelphia system according to Baseball America, considered the industry leader in the coverage of the minors. The publication ranked May second in its July 30 Hot Sheet, "a snapshot of which top prospects are excelling."
The most strikeouts May had in his previous four starts with Lakewood was four, twice, in just five innings of work. One of those games came against Delmarva. And in his next start, on Aug. 2 at the Greeneville Astros, May allowed just three hits and no runs in six innings while fanning nine with three walks.
That improved his mark to 4-1 with an ERA of 2.57 in six starts with Lakewood. In 35 innings he has 51 strikeouts with 13 walks and 27 hits allowed.
So what did Schrenk tell May?
"Try to make every part of the game the same with every pitch," said May, who added he tries to take the ball out of his glove the same way each time.
May said he got several messages from friends back home in Washington and from former teammates with Clearwater in the Florida State League after the 14-strikeout effort. "Some friends dropped me a text, ‘I heard you had a good day'," he said of their comments.
May began the season in Clearwater, where he was 5-5 with an ERA of 5.01 in 16 games. He allowed just 53 hits in 70 innings with 90 strikeouts, but walked a whopping 61 batters.
"Toward the end of a bad stretch, I had a string of seven or eight games that I couldn't go deep into the games," May said.
So what turned things around?
"I started working on the mental aspect of the game," he said. "When you are in the minor leagues you get outcome oriented. I am trying to shift away from what stats are like. I focus now on pitch-by-pitch. I trust what I have done in the past."
The Phillies are certainly high on May, who was 4-1 with an ERA of 2.56 in 15 starts last year for Lakewood. Chuck LaMar, the assistant general manager in charge of player development and scouting for the Phillies, said of May in March: "We think he is going to have a chance to be a front-line Major League pitcher. For his first full season, he handled himself very well. We feel his competitiveness is as good as it gets. He has an above-average fastball, and his curve and change are getting better."
May began his pro career in 2008 in the Gulf Coast League and was 1-1 with an ERA of 3.75 in five games, with two starts. He stayed in extended spring training in 2009 before heading to Lakewood, and ended the year with 24 consecutive scoreless innings, 11 coming in the playoffs as his team won the league title.
Last year, May threw 77 innings in the regular season. He allowed 8 hits and 43 walks with 95 strikeouts. Opponents hit just .211 against him.
May admitted it was tough to adjust to the Florida heat this spring, coming from the cooler Northwest.
"Last year, a lot of strikeouts came against lower level guys, blowing the ball past them at the letters," May said.
The Phillies told May "those are going to be walks higher up," he added. "I found that out at Clearwater. My confidence was beat down a little. I am working on getting the ball down in the zone and getting more swings."