DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Dustin McGowan threw 25 pitches in a simulated game at the Blue Jays' Minor League camp on Tuesday morning and received some glowing praise from his coaching staff.
Pitching coach Bruce Walton was on hand to watch the performance, and he came back pleased with the overall results.
"[He] threw the ball very well," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said of McGowan. "He was probably in the low 90s -- I didn't see it personally -- but Bruce talked very good about the action of the stuff down in the zone. The shape and sharpness to his slider was there."
McGowan is slated to make his Grapefruit League season debut Saturday against the Astros. Last year, McGowan posted a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings following a three-year absence because of multiple shoulder surgeries.
The 29-year-old McGowan is expected to open the year as Toronto's No. 5 starter. He is also receiving competition from Kyle Drabek and Aaron Laffey for the final spot in the rotation.
Determined Romero focusing on lefty batters
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Ricky Romero heard all of the talk last season from critics who said his biggest weakness was facing left-handed hitters.
Rays manager Joe Maddon even went on record to suggest he would stack his lineup with as many lefties as possible to better combat Toronto's No. 1 starter.
Romero doesn't deny that his performance against those left-handers was an issue at times, and it's something he set out to improve.
"Not personally, but obviously the numbers don't lie, and it's something I want to get better at," Romero said when asked if he took offense to Maddon's comments in 2011. "I said every year, I feel like you have to get better at something, but that's one of the parts of my game where I want to continue to get better at -- getting lefties out."
Lefties hit .269 with a .372 on-base percentage against Romero compared to just .194 with an on-base mark of .263 for right-handers. It's a drastic difference in splits but Romero believes he has an idea of how to change his fortunes this year.
Romero entered Spring Training with the goal of refining his cut-fastball. The native of Los Angeles has more or less perfected the pitch to right-handed batters, but he has experienced difficulty using it against lefties.
"I haven't really got a chance to work on it in games yet, but in the bullpen, it has been getting better," said Romero, who pitched two scoreless innings against the Phillies on Tuesday afternoon in a 7-0 Blue Jays loss. "I've gotten a good feel for the cutter inside to a righty and now it's just front-dooring it to a lefty. It's going to come with time, and I'm going to continue to work hard on it."
Blue Jays manager John Farrell acknowledged an improved cutter to lefties could play a factor, but he also believes Romero's curveball will lead to better results as well.
"Any time you can create depth going away from a left-hander, that's the one that's going to slow some left-handers down," Farrell said. "They'll look out over the plate against him, know they'll probably get something hard away for the majority of the at-bat. But I think as he creates more consistency with the curveball against them, that's where he'll slow them down."
Blue Jays strengthen scouting with Cash
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays are hopeful the addition of advance scout Kevin Cash will help improve the club's woeful record in Interleague Play.
Toronto is just 123-142 (.464) during Interleague Play in franchise history. The only clubs in the American League with worse records are Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Kansas City.
It's an area that the Blue Jays feel can be improved with the addition of another scout. Cash, a former catcher, will be tasked with taking a first-hand look at some of the National League clubs to better prepare Toronto for those matchups.
"Kevin is not only a guy who has had a career that has given him a lot of experiences at all levels, but he's a smart guy, he's confident in his abilities," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
"We felt the need to have someone out ahead of us to complement the information that is generated internally and with his experience, the position he played, reading hitters swings and understanding pitchers, felt like he was a very good candidate to fill the role."
The Blue Jays first approached Cash about the job prior to the 2011 season, but the native of Florida wanted to continue his playing career for one more year. The talks were revisited during the offseason and the two sides eventually agreed to terms on a contract.
Advance scouting is something the Blue Jays put a lot of stock into but Farrell estimated that only 50 percent of clubs invest money into that area.
"There are different approaches, obviously, and different preferences," said Farrell, whose team went 8-10 during Interleague Play last season.
"We'll get information on a hitter -- say over the last seven to 10 days -- well, you don't know if that production has been over the first couple of days of that period or is the most recent. So we'll have a better read on that with a very recent and real first-hand look."
Farrell's also optimistic that his club's more aggressive approach on the basepaths will lead to better results against National League teams. Toronto's second-year manager implemented a style of play last season that was supposed to rely more on speed and moving the runner over as opposed to always sitting back and waiting for the home run.
That type of approach is often used in the NL, and Farrell believes as his club continues to refine that approach it will lead to better matchups.
"We're better equipped to manufacture runs in those types of games," Farrell said. "How we work the bottom of the lineup might be similar to some National League style of play.
"I think our defense is more prepared and more aware of those situations that will present themselves. Whether it's defending the hit and run, the squeeze ... Still, it's going to come down to the basics regardless of what league you're playing in."