Having already indicated Dustin May likely would start Wednesday against the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts officially committed to as much. It will mark May’s second start in place of Clayton Kershaw, who remains on the 10-day injured list due to back stiffness.
May became the first rookie Dodgers pitcher to start on Opening Day since an injury created the opportunity for Fernando Valenzuela to do so in 1981. That season also was shortened — though after games started and due to a strike — but it was one that saw the Dodgers win the World Series.
“I like that. I don’t mind revisiting ’81,” Roberts said on Opening Day.
That was prior to May filling in admirably for Kershaw. He held the San Francisco Giants to just one run and collected seven strikeouts over 4.1 innings.
It was all the more impressive when taking into account excitement and nerves that can come from a season opener and the short notice. Though, personality and ability to handle the moment was part of what went into the Dodgers selecting May as Kershaw’s replacement.
“Can’t say enough about Dustin. We knew the head, just very strong of mind, and obviously the stuff speaks for itself. He’s a guy that’s unflappable,” Roberts said. “He’s pitched big for us in the playoffs. To kind of get the ambush notice the day before Opening Day, and to be unfazed, was fun to watch.”
Although it will come without fans in attendance, now May will get an opportunity to pitch in another game with heightened intensity.
The Dodgers’ visit to Minute Maid Park is their first time facing the Astros since MLB completed an investigation that found they electronically stole signs en route to winning the 2017 World Series.
But May, like Walker Buehler — who is slated to make his 2020 debut Tuesday — were not part of the Dodgers roster during that Fall Classic matchup.
Kershaw impressed by rookie
This season marked a second consecutive year Kershaw was unable to start on Opening Day because of injury. He called the back stiffness “pretty defeating,” but watching May still proved to be enjoyable.
“He handled it really well. D. May did great. The stuff speaks for itself. Obviously, the stuff is right up there with the best in the game just as far as the pure stuff,” he said. “Once he starts honing it in a little bit, he was pretty consistent as far as pounding the strike zone, that’s awesome to see. He’s going to be good.”
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