Dodgers News: Austin Barnes Gives Inside Look at Dustin May’s Wicked Stuff

Dustin May made his first start in over 15 months, dominating the Marlins for five innings. Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes shares what made May so good.

When Dustin May returned to the mound on Saturday for his first big-league start since May 1, 2021, he had unofficial Dodgers captain Austin Barnes behind the plate catching him.

Barnes doesn’t get a ton of playing time simply because he’s not the hitter Will Smith is, but his defense, game-calling, and pitcher management make him a guy every pitcher loves to throw to. Barnes has caught May plenty over the years, although not as much as Smith has.

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After Saturday’s game, Barnes sounded quite impressed with the 24-year-old May’s pitching repertoire. As reported by Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Barnes said:

“The ball’s coming in really hot. It’s moving, going this way and then he’s got some stuff going that way. He’s got a good four-seam that can rise at the top, too. By the time he throws that breaking ball at you, it’s hard to adjust to all those speeds and all those movements.”

Major league hitters will adjust to velocity if given the chance. The thing that makes May so successful when he’s at his best is throwing a variety of pitches so the hitter is never able to sit on just one.

Here are some examples of what a hitter is up against with May:

“Spin rate” has become somewhat of a buzzword lately, but it’s extremely important. On a breaking ball, the faster a ball spins, the more movement it is likely to get. On a two-seam fastball or sinker, higher spin rate means more arm-side run. And on a four-seam fastball, a high spin rate mean the ball drops less than the hitter’s brain expects it to, giving the illusion of actually rising.

It was just five innings, and the Marlins aren’t exactly world-beaters on offense, but Code Red’s stuff looked about as good as it ever has. He even mixed in his brand-new changeup a couple times, which looked like a very promising pitch.

Perhaps most exciting was the strikeouts. Over May‘s first two seasons, the big knock on him was his inability to put hitters away, resulting in high pitch counts and far fewer strikeouts than you would expect from a guy with his stuff. Last year, before he went down with the elbow injury, he struck out 35 in just 23 innings, a huge improvement over 2019-20. His nine strikeouts in five innings this weekend suggest that last year wasn’t a fluke.

May also struck out 36 hitters in 21 innings during his minor-league rehab stint. Six games against minor leaguers and then two games against the Marlins (his next start will be in Miami later this week) sounds like a nice way to work your way back to the big leagues. By the time May faces the Mets in his third start of the season, he should really be rolling.

As Barnes said, “the sky is the limit” with Dustin May. Dodgers fans are thrilled to have Code Red back, and opposing hitters have to be much less thrilled.

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