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03/10/09 2:56 PM ET

Jays slow McGowan after discomfort

Hurler decreases workload during past week; return date up in air

PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- The Blue Jays haven't established a return date for Dustin McGowan, and the club doesn't plan on taking that step any time soon. That being the case, having the pitcher decrease his workload like he has this past week isn't necessarily considered a setback.

McGowan, who underwent season-ending surgery on his right shoulder in July, complained of discomfort in his arm this past week and visited his surgeon, Dr. Timothy Kremchek, on Sunday in Sarasota, Fla. According to Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg, Kremchek didn't find anything wrong besides the expected wear and tear.

"He said it's just normal soreness," Arnsberg said. "It's just a minor, minor setback. I wouldn't even call it a setback. We're just slowing him down."

McGowan, 26, has been throwing on flat ground throughout Spring Training, and Arnsberg said the right-hander is scheduled to play catch again this weekend. Initially, Toronto indicated that McGowan might be ready to return to the rotation by May, but the team has since changed its stance, noting that his recovery might last deep into the season.

McGowan will likely rejoin the Jays' staff at some point this year, but the club believes it will have a more realistic shot at competing in the American League East when he and Shaun Marcum (right elbow) are both back in the fold in 2010. The Jays also don't want to rush McGowan, considering how tricky shoulder injuries can be at times.

"That's why there's no dates put on this rehab," Arnsberg said. "To set dates on these things, as unpredictable as shoulders are, is ludicrous. I think our best bet is just to let these guys know that we can't wait for them to come back, but when that time comes, we'll all know it as a group."

So for now, the Blue Jays have instructed McGowan, who went 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 19 starts in 2008, to decrease the intensity of his throwing program. McGowan posted a 12-10 record for the Blue Jays in his first tour as a regular member of the team's rotation in '07, and he's considered an important part of the staff's future.

Toronto wants to make sure McGowan doesn't experience any serious setbacks in his journey back to the mound.

"We've backed him down a couple times," Arnsberg said. "He's a had a little bit of stiffness and soreness and tightness in there. We've just had to alter his throwing program a time or two -- not where he's shut down or anything like that. It's just that maybe we're going a little too quick.

"Dustin's champing at the bit, but you have to listen to your body. We told him, 'We don't need any heroes. Just take your time.'"

Around the mound: Arnsberg said that left-hander Scott Downs, who experienced some pain in his throwing elbow early in camp, will throw in a batting-practice session at the Blue Jays' Minor League facility Friday. After that outing, the Jays will determine if Downs needs another BP session or if he can begin pitching in games. ... Left-hander Ken Takahashi is still a couple days away from working off a mound for the first time since injuring his right calf on March 1. ... Lefty Ricky Romero and right-hander Jesse Litsch are slated to pitch four innings in a Minor League game Friday. ... Given the number of pitchers vying for starting jobs this spring and appearing in Grapefruit League games, Arnsberg has been using Minor League games to make sure his relievers get their required spring innings. ... On Monday, closer B.J. Ryan needed just six pitches to log one inning of work.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.