Dustin May's Friday night outing was not about Friday night.
It mattered because of what it could represent in the postseason. The Dodgers, almost certain to claim their division, are focused on winning the World Series after consecutive defeats on that stage. They're interested in whether their top pitching prospect can help in that pursuit, not whether he can earn victories in August.
May showed plenty of promise in the team's 5-2 loss to the Padres.
The 21-year-old went 5 2/3 innings, struck out three and allowed three earned runs in his MLB debut. He threw 98 mph with sink. His wavy red hair was fabulous.
Given Los Angeles' deep rotation and its inability to trade for a top-shelf reliever at the deadline, the club could use May out of the bullpen in the playoffs if he impresses during the regular season. That role would play up his stuff even more — and potentially place him in an elite club of rookie arms who've succeeded in October.
“If the time comes when I move to the bullpen, I’m 100 percent down for it,” May told reporters before Friday's game. “At the moment right now, I’m just focusing on my start and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Over the past few decades, a number of rookie relievers have been electric in the postseason. Below is a sampling of the newcomers who showed little agitation in high-pressure situations.
Among the players on this list, Rodriguez and Wainwright were probably the most impressive. They each won the World Series and carried a significant workload in key games. Rodriguez in particular stands out because of his age.
May is obviously a long way from nearing any of those hurlers in stature. He has made one big league appearance in his life. He has yet to prove himself.
As plenty of past pitchers have demonstrated, though, it doesn't take much regular-season work to get the postseason call.
What May does in the short-term is just preparation for the possibility he takes the Dodger Stadium mound a couple of months from now. That's when his outings would really matter.