Jays' McGowan takes step forward
Pitcher could be in rotation mix with successful rehab
TORONTO -- Dustin McGowan took a step toward putting himself in the mix for a spot on the Blue Jays' pitching staff on Friday morning, throwing off a mound without suffering any setbacks. The same could not be said following a similar bullpen session during the summer.
This time around, Toronto's training staff told Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos that McGowan looked great and was pain free. It was a positive development in what has been a long recovery process from right shoulder surgery for the right-hander.
"We're taking it step-by-step," Anthopoulos said. "But, we're not looking too far ahead. We don't want to build any expectations or timelines or anything like that. He threw off a mound today. He didn't have any pain or any soreness. It went well and he looked good, and it's a step in the right direction."
McGowan, who will turn 28 in March, was viewed as a potential future ace until a right shoulder injury sidelined him midway through the 2008 season. McGowan underwent an operation to repair fraying of the labrum in his arm that July. Last season, the pitcher also suffered a right knee injury that required surgery.
McGowan has no player options remaining, meaning he will have to clear waivers in order to be assigned to the Minor Leagues this year. That means that, if healthy, McGowan will have to either open the 2010 campaign on the Blue Jays' roster or on the disabled list in order to avoid possibly being claimed by another club before the season begins.
If McGowan proves to be healthy and the Jays believe he is worthy of a spot on the Opening Day roster -- either as a starter or a reliever -- he could change the landscape of a young, inexperienced rotation that has multiple jobs up for grabs. With ace Roy Halladay now traded to the Phillies, the Blue Jays have a wide-open race for starting jobs.
In order to realistically figure into that competition, McGowan has to have an outstanding spring.
"There's still a long road in this process," Anthopoulos said. "He has to pass so many tests and make sure he continues to bounce back without any soreness or pain. It's just part of the process. We're not getting ahead of ourselves."
McGowan had his best season as a starter in 2008, when he posted a 4.37 ERA over 19 starts, going 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA overall for Toronto.
While McGowan will enter Spring Training as a big unknown for the Blue Jays, right-hander Shaun Marcum is a different story. All reports have indicated that Marcum, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow, will be ready to compete as a leading candidate for a spot in the rotation.
"He's doing very, very well," Anthopoulos told fans at the Blue Jays State of the Franchise event on Thursday night. "There's no restrictions. No limitations at all. He looks great. He's going to come into camp with full guns-a-blazing. We think he's going to be ready to go to pitch, hopefully, a full season for us and have a great year."
Marcum -- 23-15 with a 3.85 ERA in his career as a starter for Toronto -- could be in the mix for the rotation's No. 1 job, along with left-hander Ricky Romero. Other starting candidates include Brandon Morrow, Brian Tallet, Marc Rzepczynski, Brett Cecil, David Purcey, Scott Richmond, Robert Ray, Brad Mills, Kyle Drabek and Zach Stewart, among others.
Right-handed starter Jesse Litsch, who is also recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, is scheduled to throw off the mound on Wednesday. Toronto is not counting on a potential return for Litsch until around June, giving him a full year to recover from the procedure.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.