Trevor May expected to face knuckleballer Charlie Haeger this week when the Portland Sea Dogs came to New Britain. Instead, he got Brandon Workman, the undefeated, hard-throwing Red Sox prospect.
"It's fun to go up against these guys. I know if we face each other 10 times, it'll be a battle every time," May said. "It's what makes baseball fun and I know I battled and came out with a little fervor. You want to face their best guy and see what you've got."
May made a statement Friday night, recording a season-high 10 strikeouts and pitching a two-hitter for his Minor League-leading second complete-game shutout of the year as the Rock Cats blanked Portland, 6-0, in the nightcap of a doubleheader.
May (2-1) outdueled Workman (4-1), handing the right-hander his first loss of the season. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 58 of 94 pitches for strikes and held the first-place Sea Dogs to four baserunners on a pair of singles, a hit batter and a walk.
"I've heard a lot of comparisons with me and him," May said of facing the Red Sox's No. 3 right-handed prospect. "We're both 6-foot-5, similar weight, both have good curveballs, both throw low- to mid-90s. We're similar. I know he throws a cutter a lot, too. It's exciting."
May's 10 strikeouts were his most since he fanned 11 over six innings for Class A Advanced Clearwater on Aug. 17, 2011. His career high is 14, which he's done twice (June 22, 2011 at Tampa and July 27, 2010 for Class A Lakewood). He said he didn't even pay attention to his pitch count.
"On a night like tonight, I'm just going to go until they take the ball," he said. "I thought I had a lot more than  and I think my red line is 110 pitches. It was one of those nights, I would have fought to keep the ball."
Xander Bogaerts, Boston's top prospect, hit a one-out single in the first off May and Peter Hissey got the Sea Dogs' only other hit in the third before getting thrown out trying to steal second.
May said he didn't pay much attention to the lack of baserunners or his growing strikeout total. He was just focused on the plate.
"I feel like I just pick a spot and throw it there," he said. "My big thing is keeping guys off with free passes, that's always been a problem with me. They want to see the number of strikes and fastball command. It's something I thought I did well with, I got ahead with the fastball, got some misses when I needed to, kept guys off-balance."
May worked a 1-2-3 second, worked around a leadoff hit batter in the fourth and got a double play to erase a leadoff walk in the fifth. He struck out two in the sixth and, with 84 pitches, came out for the seventh and retired the side in order, fanning Travis Shaw and Tony Thomas.
"If you fill up the zone, they get a little too comfortable and I feel like I did that well. I had a good change and curveball today," said May, whose other shutout was a seven-inning three-hitter on April 24 at New Hampshire. "It just happens. Everything felt good and I executed pretty well."
May said he knew the seven-inning contest might provide a chance for another complete game.
"Starting a doubleheader, there's always a chance to be out there when the last out is made. I try to take that same approach every time I pitch, but with a seven-inning game, you want to save the bullpen and give them a little more rest," he added. "We had a rainout yesterday, so it's all kind of worked out that way."
May has allowed one earned run over his last 14 innings. Besides a rough outing against Harrisburg at the end of April, he's hallowed two runs or fewer in each of his other six starts. He's struck out 37 and walked 19 over 39 1/3 innings in his first season with the Twins.
"The biggest thing was finding out what was keeping me struggling. As a whole, I was not happy [with last season], it was a step back," May said. "It's very similar [in New Britain], pretty much pitching is the same anywhere, and for me it was finding out what worked for me mentally and keeping on a routine and a program and making sure my focus is where it needs to be.
"I've done a lot of work. Last year, I was throwing well at the end, and with the program I have, I've evolved from Spring Training and into this season and it's paying off. I'm able to kind of get myself where I need to be mentally. It's all come along, so I'm definitely happy with the progress."
The right-hander, who came to Minnesota in the trade that sent Ben Revere to the Phillies, spent last season in the Eastern League with Reading, where he was ranked as Philadelphia's No. 1 prospect and went 10-13 with a 4.87 ERA in 28 starts. May also moonlights as "DJ Hey Beef" and performed as part of Reading's postgame concert series.
This year, he's without his DJ equipment but said his teammates have warmed to him nonetheless.
"Everyone calls me DJ still and they like my music better here," he laughed. "They don't have a stage to have concerts [like Reading], but I still have the stuff at my house. I have fun, it's a still fun thing to do. I'm known for it in the organization. Even in Minor League camp, we'd be out there and [Twins manager Ron] Gardenhire would say, 'Attaboy, DJ Hey Beef.' I had one article written about me in spring and that's what it was about, so everyone knows about it."