3/27/2014 5:07 P.M. ET
McGowan reviving curve for new starter role
By Gregor Chisholm / MLB.com
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Dustin McGowan is going to make a successful transition to the starting rotation, he'll have to re-learn one of his old pitches.
McGowan spent the past year working out of the bullpen and only really needed to rely on his fastball and slider. He also throws a changeup, but it's not a pitch that arrives with enough decreased velocity to really keep hitters guessing in the batter's box.
The lack of offspeed pitches isn't an issue during short stints, but now that he needs to go through a lineup multiple times, he is attempting to add a curveball to his repertoire. It's a pitch he hasn't really used in three years, and it still has a long way to go before being effective.
"I'm trying to throw curveballs, but they're just not real crisp right now," said McGowan, who was named the club's No. 5 starter on Wednesday. "I'm trying to get a feel for it. I have to, because that's a change-of-speed pitch for me. Most of my other pitches are hard, my slider's hard, so I need something to keep hitters off balance a little bit."
McGowan tried to use a curveball for the first time this spring during a four-inning start in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday. The results weren't very encouraging, but that didn't come as a surprise to McGowan, because even when he was a full-time starter from 2006-08, it caused him some issues.
Repetition will be key, but there's a limited amount of time remaining this spring to refine the pitch. McGowan will throw in a simulated game on Sunday afternoon, and that will be his final outing before a regular season start on April 4.
"For me, it's always been the hardest pitch to throw," said McGowan, who last started a Major League game on Sept. 26, 2011. "It's one of those pitches you have to get a feel for and just keep throwing it until you find it."
After spotless outing, Janssen ready to challenge arm
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Casey Janssen needed just seven pitches to get through his one inning of work against the Phillies on Thursday afternoon.
Janssen struck out Ryan Howard and Clete Thomas on just three pitches each before getting Koyie Hill on a grounder to first base. It was a rather effortless outing for the veteran right-hander who is still working his way back from a shoulder injury.
Toronto's closer is expected to pitch again on Friday night in what will be his first outing on back-to-back days this spring. That will be his final test before the start of the regular season.
"I think I'm headed in the right direction," said Janssen, who had 34 saves in 36 opportunities last season. "I don't anticipate too much soreness tomorrow, but you never know. Hopefully, have a nice inning tomorrow, not have too much soreness, prove that I can do a back-to-back and get another inning under my belt. Hopefully the gloves are off and they can just treat me like one of the guys."
There wasn't a radar gun on display at Bright House Field on Thursday afternoon, so it wasn't immediately clear just how hard Janssen was throwing. During an outing earlier this week, he was hitting just 86 mph, but typically finds himself averaging somewhere around the 90-mph mark.
More information on that will become available when Janssen takes the mound at Olympic Stadium in Montreal on Friday night. It also will be a measure of just how strong his arm is without pitching on at least one full day of rest.
The situation Janssen currently faces is very similar to the one he went through prior to the 2013 season. Janssen made just three appearances last spring, but managed to break camp with the team and went on to enjoy one of his best seasons in the Major Leagues. The hope is that this year will be similar, but an added sign of encouragement is that there's less discomfort this time around.
"Last year there was a lot more discomfort," Janssen said. "This, once it passed, it's kind of just get yourself amped up and get ready. The only thing for me is that I haven't challenged the arm like a game, so I'm continuing to do that, and obviously what comes with that is hopefully some velocity, intensity level, juices pumping and everything like that. I'm sure once the bright lights come on and we're in [St. Petersburg for Opening Day], everything is going to work out and we'll be alright."
Reyes, Encarnacion cleared to play
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Jose Reyes and Edwin Encarnacion have both been cleared to play in this weekend's upcoming two-game series vs the Mets in Montreal.
Reyes has been out of action since he suffered a mild strain in his left hamstring during Saturday's game against Detroit. He has been listed as day to day, but the club announced Thursday afternoon that he will be available in Toronto's final two games of the spring.
The original line of thinking was that Reyes would get the start at designated hitter upon his return. That no longer appears to be the case, and the Blue Jays expect to have him in the lineup at shortstop on Friday night.
Encarnacion was struck by a pitch on his right forearm during Wednesday's game against the Yankees. He was immediately removed, but has since received a clean bill of health. Encarnacion would have been available to play Thursday vs. Philadelphia, but the club opted to give him a day of rest.
The positive updates are a breath of fresh air for an organization that was decimated by injuries last spring. The Blue Jays appear on track to start the season with their 25-man roster intact, which wasn't the case a year ago when Brett Lawrie started the year on the disabled list.
Left-hander J.A. Happ is the only Blue Jays player who is currently not ready to start the season. He has been placed on the disabled list with a sore lower back, but he had also been outpitched this spring and no longer had a spot in the starting rotation.