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Odyssey since 2001 rocky for 51s pitcher

Same as every Triple-A player, Joe Mays rather would be elsewhere. But unlike the rest of his 51s teammates, Mays has spent most of his career in the major leagues.

Six years ago, he won 17 games for the Minnesota Twins and was an American League All-Star.

Since that season, he has won just 18 games in the majors — and suffered one serious injury.

"I’m finally feeling back to normal right now," said Mays, a right-hander who is traveling the long road to recovery after Tommy John surgery.

On a windy Wednesday night at Cashman Field, where temperatures dropped to the low 50s, Mays made his third start of the season for Las Vegas in its 10-6 loss to Colorado Springs.

Mays, who won Friday’s home opener against Salt Lake, threw six innings and struck out six against the Sky Sox. He left the game with a 6-4 lead.

Their bullpen and defense doomed the 51s (8-5) as Colorado Springs scored six runs, three unearned, in the final three innings.

Mays, 1-1 with a 3.50 ERA, survived one bad inning. He allowed two-run doubles to Joe Koshansky and Alvin Colina during a four-run third.

Mays’ stay in Las Vegas is likely to be brief. If the Los Angeles Dodgers don’t promote him by May 15, he will be free to seek a deal with another team.

"Hopefully it’s the Dodgers, but if I go to another team, I know I can help somebody in the big leagues now," Mays said.

Veteran right-hander Aaron Sele had the same agreement with the Dodgers last year. Sele was 3-0 in five starts for the 51s before leaving Triple A on May 1. He spent the rest of the season with L.A.

"As we get down the road, and they feel like he’s really doing well, Joe might be a guy who can go up and help the major league club," Las Vegas manager Lorenzo Bundy said.

Mays pitched in the majors for Cincinnati and Kansas City last year but went 0-5 in 10 starts. He finished 6-10 in 26 starts for the Twins in 2005.

After arm surgery in September 2003, Mays missed the next season while going through a rehabilitation program. Last year, he said, he regained most of his arm strength.

"I felt like I could really torque on the slider and I could really get the sinker to sink the way I wanted," he said. "Prior to that, everything was kind of flat.

"Coming off surgery, you’re trying to get people out, things aren’t working and the ball’s not moving like it was, and you start doubting yourself a little bit. I have the confidence back. I can compete without trying to force things to happen, and I feel like I have more command of the game."

Mays had a few options in the offseason, but one reason he signed with the Dodgers was because the National League is easier on pitchers.

"Those lineups over in the American League are a lot tougher," he said.

NOTES — The 51s activated relievers Harold Eckert and Luis Gonzalez. … In the first game of his rehab assignment, Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp went 0-for-3.

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