3/3/2014 7:15 P.M. ET
Finally healthy, McGowan competing for roster spot
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- At this point in his career, Dustin McGowan will take the good news where he can get it. McGowan, who has gone through a litany of injuries that includes elbow surgery and three operations on his shoulder, finds himself healthy and competing for a spot on the Blue Jays' roster.
The right-hander has been held to just 30 appearances since the outset of the 2009 campaign, but he thrived as a reliever in 25 games last season. McGowan made his second appearance of the spring on Monday, and though he didn't get the results he wanted, he found a bright side.
"I threw the ball. I don't know if I'd call it pitching," McGowan joked after his outing. "I feel great. I guess that's the disturbing part: I feel so good. I guess in Spring Training, that's all you can ask for."
McGowan, who will turn 32 before Opening Day, has long been one of Toronto's most intriguing arms. Now, with his baseball odometer rolling over, he's trying to work past the injury curve. The Blue Jays aren't sure whether McGowan fits better as a starter or a reliever, but they're willing to find out.
"That's the million-dollar question. It's something I don't know the answer to," said McGowan of whether there would be less strain on his arm starting or in relief. "I don't know if I threw 100 pitches if I'd get too sore and couldn't take a while to recover. It's part of the process. Finding out."
McGowan only worked an inning in Monday's 12-2 loss to Minnesota, but he allowed two hits and was charged with three earned runs. He said that the main culprit on Monday was his inability to throw the breaking ball for strikes, and that he found himself falling behind in the count because of it.
McGowan admits that he's a "longshot" to earn a rotation berth, but he said he'd love the opportunity if it was granted to him. And right now, the Blue Jays want to maximize his chances for success.
"We're monitoring it. We'll see what happens with it," said manager John Gibbons. "I have some doubts whether that will work. If it gets to the point where we see it's not going to work, we'll shut him down. He's a guy, when he was a starter before he got hurt, he could throw a lot of pitches."
Now, though, McGowan can delight in small victories. McGowan feels healthy, he's throwing hard and everything else will sort itself out. And as for his injuries? He feels they're behind him.
"I don't think the word frustrating can even start to explain it," said McGowan of his injury-filled odyssey. "It's in the past. It's over with now and I've got years to look forward to now."
After rough start, Happ looks to next outing
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- That wasn't the outing J.A. Happ had envisioned. The southpaw got the ball for the Blue Jays on Monday against the Twins, but he was only able to record one out. Happ gave up two hits and walked four batters, and he said later that there weren't many positives to take home.
"I'm just anxious to get out there and do it again," said Happ. "We're definitely going to take a look at this one. The fluidity wasn't quite the same as last time. I definitely need to be more aggressive in the zone, let our defense do its thing. Trust that. I probably tried to do too much today."
Happ, who went 5-7 with a 4.56 ERA in 18 starts last season, would've liked to see a little more consistency in his second start. The left-hander fell behind just two batters into the game, and he wasn't able to stay on the mound long enough to find his bearings.
"I felt like I was making some good pitches. And the good pitches I made, they just took," Happ said. "I wasn't as sharp with my fastball command as I'll need to be. That always makes it tough."
The Blue Jays never really recovered from Happ's adverse outing. Toronto pitchers walked eight batters and allowed 14 hits in the 12-2 loss. Minnesota, by contrast, walked just two batters, and Toronto manager John Gibbons said there wasn't much more to glean from Happ's game.
"He struggled. He couldn't throw any strikes," said Gibbons. "We were allergic to strikes today on the mound. [Pitching coach] Pete Walker told me he didn't miss a spot warming up before the game, and then he couldn't find one out there. It wasn't like he was scattering it all over. He was close, but you've got to keep it in the zone. Take your chances. Let them hit the ball. ... You're looking for contact."
Happ, for his part, said he does not subscribe to the theory that you can be hit hard early in Spring Training. For this pitcher, a difficult loss in Spring Training feels just like one in the season.
"It doesn't matter where you feel you are: You're trying to get outs and trying to be successful," Happ said. "Results-wise, it might not be as big as the season, but you definitely want to take steps forward. I think next time will be a step forward. We'll take a look at how it went today and make adjustments."
Encarnacion: 'I know I'll be successful'
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- It didn't take long for Edwin Encarnacion to get back in the groove. Encarnacion, one of the Blue Jays' principal power threats, went deep for the first time this spring Monday. The slugger drilled a shot to left field that accounted for Toronto's only offense in a 12-2 loss to Minnesota.
Encarnacion has hit 78 home runs over the past two seasons, and he was rewarded with his first trip to the All-Star Game last season. The 31-year-old said he's just trying to get his timing down at this point of the spring, and he said that he doesn't feel pressure to repeat his All-Star season.
"There's nothing easy in this game. This game is crazy," said Encarnacion, "but I don't feel pressure to put up the same numbers I've put up the last two years. I know what I've got. I know what I can do. I just need to be healthy and to play the game hard on the field. I know I'll be successful."
That confidence, born from results, is contagious. Encarnacion got all of his at-bats as the No. 3 or cleanup hitter last season, and manager John Gibbons loves the security of having him in the middle of the lineup so much that he slotted him in for a long spring road trip on Monday.
"Eddie is one of the least of our worries," said Gibbons. "I'm sure he wasn't really excited to hop on the bus and come all the way to Fort Myers, but at least he had something to show for it."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.