TOP PHILLIES pitching prospect Trevor May is ready to take the next step - even if it means a lot of lying down.
May, a 6-5, 215-pound bulldog of a righthanded pitcher, last season received this counsel from Phillies backup catcher Brian Schneider:
Schneider and Carl Pavano played together in Montreal a decade ago. May's body type and temperament reminded Schneider of Pavano, another burly, 6-5 righthander who, in his early 20s, lacked flexibility. Pavano kept getting hurt.
Schneider didn't want that to happen to May, so, when Schneider spent time with the Threshers rehabbing a hamstring injury last summer, he suggested that May hit the mats. May listened.
"I've tried yoga," said the 22-year-old May. "It's just really hard finding a good instructor."
He will keep trying. Already, he said, it has enhanced not only his flexibility, but also his body control and mental strength.
"That's what I've always needed," said May, who walked 81 batters in 2010 and 67 more last season, his fourth after being selected by the Phillies in the fourth round in 2008.
His discipline and control might be lacking, but, certainly, May has plenty of talent.
He set the single-season strikeout record for Class A Clearwater, with 208, with three complete games, two shutouts and 151 1/3 innings. At 10-8 with a 3.63 earned-run average in 27 starts, May won the organization's Paul Owens Award as the top minor league pitcher and the distinction from Baseball America as the organization's top minor leaguer.
It was May's second stint at Clearwater; a run in 2010 was aborted after a rough start. He will start this season at Double A Reading, where, hopefully, he finds a peaceful studio and a dependable yogi.
The Phillies couldn't be happier.
"We have our programs we believe in, as far as strength and conditioning, and a psychological approach," said Benny Looper, the Phillies' assistant general manager in charge of player personnel. "Everybody's different, too. When they're introspective enough, when they're bright enough, to start figuring this out on their own, what's works best for them - and they rely on experts to get to that point, it has to be very encouraging."
May is not bashful about his hopes. In 2007, at age 22, Kyle Kendrick jumped to the majors from Double A and won 21 games in 2007 and 2008.
Standing in the Phillies clubhouse after a media orientation session, May looked around and said, "I'd be lying if I didn't say I hope to be in this clubhouse this season some time."
Pavano, by the way, is 106-102 with a 4.33 earned-run average in 13 seasons.
The Phillies would bend over backward for those sorts of results from May.
Shane Victorino can be a free agent after this season.
No one knows how John Mayberry Jr. will fare in his second major league season, or if Domonic Brown will ever see the Phillies' outfield again.
This time next year, Jiwan James might be a very hot commodity. Baseball America considers him the franchise's best minor league athlete who hasn't made it to the majors yet.
"I'm definitely excited about it," said James, who can play all three outfield positions. "When it's time for those guys to move on, I feel like I'll be ready for it. The timetable I'm on now, by the time there's an opening, I feel like I'll be ready."
After solid seasons in Lakewood in 2010, where he hit .270, and Clearwater last year, where he hit .268, the Phillies believe James, 22, is ready for Double A Reading.
"We assume that's where he's going to play," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies' new player development director. "We'll put him in a position to earn that job in spring training. If he does, he does."
In October, Jordan replaced Chuck LaMar, who abruptly quit in early September. Jordan has been grilling the club's minor league directors and poring over reams of reports in preparation for spring training, but, he said, he is familiar with many of the Phillies' prospects.
That includes James - especially James.
"He's interesting to me," Jordan admitted, smiling. "We liked him in Baltimore. I had a scout 3 years ago start beating me over the head with this guy."
James' talents made a ready and effective weapon. A former pitcher - he started eight times in rookie ball in 2007, when the Phils took him in the 22nd round - the righthander's arm alone makes him attractive.
Combine that arm with the sort of speed that resulted in 64 steals the past two seasons - and the kind of fearlessness that resulted in 36 failed steal attempts and 152 strikeouts the past two seasons - and you have the sort of player who expects to succeed. And to be a successor.