Trevor May won 10 games in the Eastern League last year as a member of the Reading Phillies, but he was concerned by how often a two-out hit or consecutive walks snowballed into a big inning.
Now with the New Britain Rock Cats, one of his primary goals is to limit the damage when things start to get out of hand.
May pitched a three-hitter for his third career shutout Wednesday as the Twins' Double-A affiliate blanked the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, 5-0, in the first game of a doubleheader.
"I felt good today. I've had eight days between my last start and today, so I felt fresh and ready to get back on the mound," May said. "I felt in control, and my off-speed pitches were there when I needed them. I was spotting my fastball and that set everything else up pretty well."
May was scheduled to pitch Sunday, his regular slot in the rotation, but B.J. Hermsen came off the disabled list that day and the Twins wanted to keep him on schedule. With an off-day scheduled for Monday, May was pushed back to Tuesday. And when that game got rained out, the 23-year-old's fourth start of the year was delayed again.
Acquired by the Twins with big leaguer Vance Worley in the trade that sent outfielder Ben Revere to the Phillies on the final day of the Winter Meetings last December, May (1-1) struggled early on but got stronger as Wednesday's game wore on.
He left the bases loaded in the first inning after allowing Kevin Pillar's leadoff double and consecutive two-out walks. In the third, he stranded two more runners in scoring position.
"My focus wasn't where it needed to be and I fell behind hitters," said May, who threw 63 of 104 pitches for strikes. "Getting out of [the first inning] was a big thing for me. I had a problem with stranding runners on base last year, and that's something I need to do.
"I need to be able to get out of innings with one pitch, rather than pitching around guys. I'm making huge strides staying with my plan rather than worrying about who's on base or how many outs there are."
After falling behind early, May cruised. He retired 14 of the 15 final batters he faced, yielding only a one-out double to Adam Loewen in the seventh.
It was his fourth career complete game and first shutout since a seven-inning two-hitter for Class A Advanced Clearwater on Aug. 10, 2011.
May, 10-13 with a 4.87 ERA in 28 starts with Reading last year, had pitched well in his previous three starts for New Britain, but a lack of command left him winless. He gave up one run over five innings on April 5 in Richmond, then allowed two runs on four hits over four frames in Harrisburg five days later. On April 16,, May recorded a season-high eight strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings but did not figure in the Rock Cats' 7-6 win over New Hampshire after allowing a pair of runs on six hits and four walks.
Over 21 1/3 innings, the Twins' No. 7 prospect has struck out 22 batters, walked 13 and served up three home runs.
"I felt like the three walks today were three too many, but as opposed to the past, my walks were more under control. They were smaller misses, a couple inches," May said. "I feel like my mind-set is there. Once I get in a routine, the walks will go down.
"All of the home runs have been solo home runs and I think all of them have led off innings. I would much rather give up a home run in the first couple of pitches rather than with the bases loaded for a grand slam. I'd be in more trouble then."
Jonathan Goncalves staked May to a quick lead with a two-run homer in the second and Antoan Richardson went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored for New Britain.
Fisher Cats starter Tyson Brummett (0-2) took the loss after allowing four runs on six hits over four innings. He fanned five and walked three.
In the nightcap, Ryan Tepera (3-0) yielded one hit over six innings as New Hampshire salvaged a split with a 3-0 win.