ST. PETERSBURG -- Dustin McGowan emerged from a back room and made his way around the visitors' clubhouse at Tropicana Field on Monday, stopping at a few lockers to chat with some of his Blue Jays teammates.
It sure beat watching Toronto's games from afar.
"It almost hurts to watch," said McGowan, who is currently recovering from a second surgery on his right shoulder. "You want to be there instead of sitting there watching it. Being a spectator is not too fun."
McGowan has not pitched for the Blue Jays since July 2008. Since then, the pitcher has undergone a pair of shoulder operations. The latest surgery -- performed by Dr. James Andrews in June -- was to repair a significant tear of McGowan's rotator cuff, which will sideline the pitcher for an undetermined amount of time.
Right now, McGowan is eagerly awaiting November, when he will be cleared to pick up a baseball and simply play catch. This past spring, McGowan attempted to make a push for the Blue Jays' rotation, but he knew midway through March that he was probably headed for another surgery.
"You at least have to try the other methods first," McGowan said. "Maybe you'll get lightning in a bottle and something does work. ... Early on, I felt really good. My first couple bullpens and batting practices, I felt really good. I guess the wear and tear, I just couldn't take too much of it. Once it started aching, it just never stopped.
"I kept trying to push through it and push through it and it kept getting worse."
For now, the 28-year-old McGowan -- a 12-game winner for the Jays in 2007 -- is limited to cardio workouts and doing lower body weight training. When he is able, the pitcher also tracks Toronto's ballgames. One thing is for certain, McGowan is thankful that the Jays organization has continued to show faith in his ability to return to the mound.
"I'm really grateful," McGowan said. "They don't have to do that. I've been lucky and blessed that they've done that for me and hopefully I can come back and help them out."
Morrow says innings limit is for the best
ST. PETERSBURG -- Brandon Morrow sat down with Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos in early July to discuss the innings limit that would take effect at some point for the pitcher. Morrow and Anthopoulos just did not know it would happen this soon.
"They hadn't decided on when it would be," Morrow said on Monday at Tropicana Field. "He said that it came quicker than expected, because I've been pitching deeper into games and pitching so well."
Toronto announced on Sunday that Morrow's next start -- against the Yankees on Friday -- would be his last outing of the season. The news hardly caught the right-hander off guard. The only aspect of the upcoming work stoppage that came as a surprise is the fact that it comes with one month left on the schedule.
That is simply a sign of how quickly Morrow has progressed in his first season as a full-time starter in the big leagues.
After a handful of rough outings to open the year with the Blue Jays, who acquired Morrow in a three-player trade with the Mariners in December, the pitcher lowered his arm slot and retooled his mechanics. Over the course of the season, Morrow became more comfortable with the changes and his development as a starter took off.
"For them to let me work through that first month," Morrow said, "when there was a lot of inconsistency in my mechanics and trying to find that good arm slot and good rhythm, we worked on that a lot in bullpens and in between starts, and I think it shows in the progression through my year."
Over his past 16 starts, the 26-year-old Morrow has gone 7-2 with a 3.11 ERA, piling up 115 strikeouts against 35 walks over 98 1/3 innings. That's a drastic improvement over his first nine starts, during which Morrow went 3-4 with a 6.80 ERA to go along with 59 strikeouts and 28 walks in 45 innings.
Overall, Morrow has gone 10-6 with a 4.27 ERA over 25 starts. The right-hander has logged 143 1/3 innings after working 124 2/3 frames between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle a year ago. After his start against the Yankees, Morrow should be around 150 innings, which would be roughly a 20 percent increase over his workload in 2009.
Morrow knows shutting things down early could go a long way in aiding his endurance in 2011.
"The innings that I've logged this year will help carry over for next year," Morrow said, "and help me stay stronger through the year and be able to pitch deeper into the year, pitch through September."
Overbay, Escobar out of Jays' lineup
ST. PETERSBURG -- Lyle Overbay remained away from the team on Monday and Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston still could not say what exactly was ailing the first baseman. Overbay has only been described as being "under the weather" since Friday.
"He's just back at the hotel," Gaston said before the opener of a three-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field. "We don't know anything yet. He's just not feeling well. They've been running some tests on him to see what's what. That's all I know. He is here."
Overbay exited Friday's game against the Tigers prior to the sixth inning and has missed three games since then. With Overbay still out of the mix on Monday, Adam Lind got the nod as the Blue Jays' starting first baseman against Tampa Bay.
Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar was also out of the lineup for the second game in a row due to a sore back. Gaston said he did not plan on using Escobar off the bench and hoped the shortstop would be available to play on Tuesday. Mike McCoy started in place of Escobar on Monday night.
Gaston gave the day off to Blue Jays center fielder Vernon Wells on Monday, but it was simply to provide rest. Wells said there was nothing bothering him.
The Blue Jays will need a starter to replace right-hander Brandon Morrow, who is going to be shut down after his start against the Yankees on Friday. Manager Cito Gaston said Triple-A Las Vegas lefty Brad Mills is one possibility. Toronto will also need a spot starter for games on Sept. 8 and 26. Gaston indicated that no one from Double-A New Hampshire was currently under consideration. ... Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista was named the American League's Player of the Week on Monday. Bautista has won the weekly honor three times this season, marking the first time in club history a player took home the award that many times in one campaign. ... Injured Blue Jays pitcher Jesse Litsch, who underwent surgery on his right hip earlier this month, stopped by Tropicana Field to visit with his teammates on Monday. Litsch, currently on crutches, is expected to be recovered in time for Spring Training. ... On Saturday, Double-A New Hampshire clinched a playoff spot for the first time since 2004, when it won the Eastern League championship. ... Class A Dunedin right-hander Joel Carreno broke the Dunedin single-season strikeout record on Sunday, recording his 162nd strikeout of the year. The previous mark was set in 1992 by Nate Cromwell.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.