KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Both Travis Snider and Eric Thames started in the Blue Jays' 6-3 win over the Astros on Thursday. Snider was the designated hitter and Thames played in left.

Both Snider and Thames are battling for the starting position in left field, with the loser probably being sent to Triple-A Las Vegas.

Snider went 1-for-4 with a two-run double and two strikeouts. He is now batting .296 with a team-leading 12 RBIs in nine spring games.

Thames went 2-for-4, including an RBI single and a double. He has a .320 batting average this spring in nine games.

Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos has stated in recent days the importance of Thames coming off a 2011 season in which he started 77 games in the outfield, including 53 in left.

McGowan continues strong spring

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It was only the second appearance and second start of the 2012 Grapefruit League season for Dustin McGowan, but the 16th spring game for the Blue Jays may turn out to be the brightest in the end for Toronto.

After surrendering one unearned run in three effortless innings in the Blue Jays' 6-3 win over the Astros on Thursday, McGowan revealed a major component to actually being considered a regular starter.

"After my last start [on March 10th], I threw my first side in between in God knows how long and, to me, that was a big step as anything," said McGowan, who gave up two hits with three strikeouts and one walk over his 48-pitch outing.

"Last year, I was just trying to get the arm to recover in between and now it's showing it's recovering, so it gives me a chance to throw sides and sharpen up on stuff. It feels good. There's a peace of mind."

McGowan returned last September following a three-year absence due to shoulder injuries. In five appearances, including four starts, the 29-year-old right-hander allowed 15 runs and 20 hits in 21 innings.

Blue Jays manager John Farrell said what matters most is McGowan's continued progression as a healthy athlete.

"I'm most comforted by the fact that I no longer have to ask him how he's feeling when he comes off the mound," Farrell said. "Now the conversation is strictly on what pitches are working, what was most effective. Things like that."

McGowan, who has the longest tenure of any current Blue Jay after being drafted with the 33rd pick in the 2000 amateur Draft, believes he has resumed his role as "just another one of the guys, just another starter who pitches every fifth day."

"That's how I want it to be and how I hope it continues to be," McGowan said.

Worth noting

• Prior to Thursday's contest with the Astros, the Blue Jays optioned right-handed pitchers Chad Beck and Daniel Farquhar to the Minor Leagues. There are now 49 players in Major League camp.

• Jake Marisnick hit his first home run of the spring with a solo homer in the ninth.

• The Blue Jays have now won nine consecutive games and are 11-2-1, their best spring start since 1989. Brett Lawrie leads the American League in several categories this spring, including 13 hits, six doubles and four stolen bases.