Tuesday is an important day for Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Dustin McGowan. For the soon to be 31-year-old, any step forward is an important one and if Tuesday’s bullpen session is successful, this could be the most important step of McGowan’s career.
Since 2008, Dustin McGowan has made just five appearances at the Major League level. After missing all of the 2009 and 2010 season with shoulder issues, McGowan stepped to the mound for four starts and one relief appearance last year before once again being forced to the disabled list, missing the rest of the 2011 and all of the 2012 seasons. Then to add insult to injury, the Blue Jays were forced to shut down McGowan again on February 13th due to, you guessed it, tightness in his shoulder.
Well, that latest setback is apparently behind McGowan now and the Blue Jays are moving forward with the once talented prospect. In an interview with the National Post, manager John Gibbons went as far as to indicate the if McGowan can get himself up to game speed fast, that he could ultimately figure into the team’s crowded bullpen picture.
“He’s in the picture,” Gibbons said. “There’s a chance he could make the team in that middle role. But it’s getting to the point where we’ve got to get him on the mound quick if it’s going to happen.”
While not the starter’s role that McGowan was once being groomed for, the chance to once again step to the mound could easily outweigh a change in responsibility. With Toronto considering using him in middle relief, the opportunity to be used in short bursts rather than having to work up his arm strength for starting could also benefit McGowan’s rehab.
He’ll also have to compete with the likes of Brad Lincoln, Brett Cecil, J.A. Happ, and possibly Jeremy Jeffress. Happ and Lincoln have minor league options and the team has already discussed starting both at Triple-A for minor league depth, but both could be important figures to the team throughout the season.
Of course, that all requires McGowan to climb a hill he has thus far been unable to mount for four seasons. That all starts with one step on Tuesday. One small step for most, but a giant leap forward for McGowan.