Dustin McGowan has not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2011 and has only thrown in five contests for the Blue Jays since the end of the 2008 season. However, there may finally be a light at the end of the tunnel for the oft-injured pitcher with promise.
According to John Lott at the National Post, the 31-year-old McGowan is finally ready to begin a Minor League rehab assignment and has been assigned to the Dunedin Blue Jays. The Blue Jays own website is somewhat cryptic on the matter though, as they are reporting McGowan has been assigned to both Dunedin and New Hampshire, although Dunedin seems more likely at the time.
The Blue Jays are likely to be very careful with McGowan and are expected to utilize the full 30-day window they have at their disposal. The plan for now is to transition McGowan to a bullpen role, which should help reduce the workload on his arm and allow him to return to the Major Leagues in a role the club currently has a need for.
Once that 30-day window is up, the Blue Jays will have to assess whether McGowan is ready to join the 25-man roster or the team will have to expose him to waivers, as he is out of Minor League options.
McGowan did make one appearance this spring, throwing one scoreless inning on March 26th against Pittsburgh. Since then, he has been in extended spring training, working on his arm strength.
McGowan owns a lifetime record of 20-24 with a 4.80 ERA and a 7.3 K/9 ratio. He enjoyed his best season in the Major Leagues in 2007, posting a career-high with 12 wins over 27 starts, with a 4.08 ERA and 144 strike-outs in 169.2 innings pitched.
Four times in his Minor League career, McGowan ranked at a top-100 prospect according to Baseball America, peaking at #18 in the pre-2004 list. However, a series of shoulder and elbow injuries have kept him from fully realizing his potential.
McGowan is under contract through the 2014 season, and the Blue Jays hold a $4 million team option for the 2015 season with a $500k buyout.
UPDATE: Dustin McGowan made his first appearance of 2013 in Dunedin on Tuesday night. In 1 inning against Fort Myers, McGowan allowed 1 hit and struck out the side in a scoreless outing.