TORONTO -- Dustin McGowan could find himself back in a starting role if he continues to progress as expected during his rehab from a right shoulder injury.

McGowan hasn't pitched in the Major Leagues since 2008, when he was forced to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum.

The 29-year-old was expected to return as a reliever, but his recent success has caused the Blue Jays to re-evaluate that decision.

"I didn't expect to ever even see him being considered a starter again, but he has made such progress," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "It's exciting. We're learning as we go through this, as well.

"Your No. 1 goal is to keep a player as healthy as you can, and initially he had so many setbacks, the thought was, look maybe we just need to try to minimize everything and keep him as a reliever."

The Blue Jays have since consulted with their team doctors and renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews about what the next phase of McGowan's recovery should be. The general consensus appears to be that a set pitching schedule would be beneficial for McGowan's overall health.

A move to the starting rotation would allow McGowan to avoid pitching on back-to-back days, as well as having to continuously be ready out of the club's bullpen.

"A starter's role can be regulated a whole lot more," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "In this case, provided he is able to build on those innings incrementally through the rehab part, it might lend us to take that route more in earnest."

McGowan still faces a long road back to the Major Leagues. He currently has only thrown in extended spring training this year, and has not gone multiple innings.

The next step of his rehab will be pitching two innings once every four days. Extended spring training ends June 8, so he likely will then go on a rehab assignment that cannot last more then 30 days.

When that time frame expires, the club must either place McGowan on the 25-man roster or risk losing him to waivers, because he is out of options on his $450,000 contract.

McGowan also can have the 30-day window put on hold or restarted at any time if he is not deemed healthy enough to return.

The biggest positive of McGowan's progression in recent weeks has been his ability to pitch without limitations. The native of Georgia's velocity has climbed all the way back to 95 mph, while his secondary pitches also reportedly have new life.

"When he was coming back before he was like 88, 87, in Spring Training it wasn't close to what it is now," Anthopoulos said. "Stuff wasn't where it was today, now he has bounced back and he hasn't done it just once now, he has done it multiple times. Again, we're going to be as conservative as we can be, we're going to take our time."

McGowan is a combined 20-22 with a 4.71 ERA in four seasons during his Major League career. His best season came in 2007, when he went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA.

Lind working toward Saturday return

TORONTO -- First baseman Adam Lind could return to the Blue Jays lineup as early as Saturday in Baltimore.

Lind hasn't played since leaving a game on May 7 against Detroit with tightness in his lower back. He has spent the past two weeks at the club's Minor League complex in Dunedin, Fla., trying to work his way back from the injury.

The 27-year-old Lind received another four at-bats at extended spring training on Tuesday afternoon. It was the second consecutive day Lind started at DH, and he is now expected to appear in an official rehab game for Class A Dunedin on Wednesday.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said he remains "cautiously optimistic" that Lind will rejoin the team in time for Saturday's game in Baltimore.

"The fact that it's two consecutive days where he has not reproduced any discomfort of any kind," Farrell said when explaining his optimism. "When he did feel any discomfort while in Florida, it always has been on a full out sprint, or it was, which has not been the case here the last few days."

Toronto wants Lind to receive at least four at-bats every day from Wednesday-Friday. The club would also like to see Lind play one game at first base before making a return.

Normally, the Blue Jays would require more time in the field, but with Juan Rivera playing well in Lind's absence they can afford to ease the transition back to the Major Leagues.

"Right now, it would be OK to go one time, because what we plan to talk about is when he comes back, we'll ease him back in with the games played and the duration of games played at first base," Farrell said.

Lind is batting .313 with seven home runs and 27 RBIs in 32 games this season.

Encarnacion sits out after removal of toenail

TORONTO -- Edwin Encarnacion was not available for Monday night's game against the Indians after having a toenail removed from the big toe on his left foot.

Encarnacion had been dealing with the injury since he fouled a ball off his left foot during a game against New York on May 23.

The 28-year-old was available to pinch-hit on Tuesday night, and the plan was to have him eligible for full duty Wednesday.

That doesn't solve the problem of where Encarnacion will find playing time with Adam Lind close to returning and top prospect Brett Lawrie on the verge of being called up to the Major Leagues.

"It's hard for him right now when he's not available because of the toe," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "When Lind gets back, we will have a little bit of a rotation between the DH and the first base spot for Juan [Rivera] and for Adam.

"Where Edwin's at-bats are going to come from is going to be from the DH spot. He'll pinch-hit at times, and depending on where our alignment is defensively and whether an opportunity comes in that way it remains to be seen."

Encarnacion is batting .248 with just one home run and 10 RBIs in 145 at-bats this season.

Worth mentioning

• Blue Jays infielder John McDonald has begun his rehab from a right hamstring injury and appears on schedule to return to the club by June 12.

"The reports are solid," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "The irritation and the inflammation in the hamstring are subsiding, and we fully expect that by the end of the 15 days he should be able to return."

• Toronto likely will go back to a seven-man bullpen when Adam Lind returns from the 15-day disabled list. The Blue Jays have been carrying an eight-man relief corps for the vast majority of the 2011 campaign, but with their starting pitchers now going deeper into games, the need for an extra arm isn't as pressing.

"That's a possibility," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "But to sit here today and say when and who, we're not prepared to say that."