Toronto Blue Jays’ Braveheart Hope Dustin McGowan


Feb 17, 2014; Dunedin, FL, USA; Toronto Blue Jays relief pitcher Dustin McGowan (29) works out for spring training at Bobby Mattick Training Center . Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Do you want hope and glory Toronto Blue Jays fans? Do you want to see bravery in the face of overwhelming odds? Do you want a war? Well, there is a hero in Dunedin, Florida who is tailor-made for you…. Dustin McGowan is his name. Why is he brave? McGowan is willing to take the chance of ending his baseball career to once again be what he has always wanted to be… a starting pitcher.

McGowan has the tools to be an ace pitcher. This right-hander throws both the four and two-seam heater at 95 mph. His slider and change-up both are at 86 mph. Jays’ GM Alex Anthopolous has stated repeatedly that McGowan has the best stuff of any pitcher in the organization. There is only one catch…. one more injury may end the 31-year old’s baseball career for good.

McGowan essentially has lost four years (2008-2012) of his career due to injuries. He has gone up and down, from the minors to majors between injuries so many times, it is difficult to keep track. Indeed, McGowan has overcome great odds rehabbing from three shoulder operations (i.e., labrum, rotator cuff and microscopic), a painful knee procedure and even a bout of plantar fasciitis. It is a real wonder he managed to return to the major leagues.

McGowan sucked up all these disasters to come back in 2013 and pitch 25.2 innings as a reliever. Was he good? He had an ERA of 2.40, struck out 26, walked 12, put together a 1.20 WHIP, and kept the opposition to a .190 batting average. Yeah, he was real good.

Still, it is important to note that McGowan had to go on the disabled list for the eighth time in his career last year. This time for shoulder soreness. Poignant warning? Not for Dustin McGowan’s mother’s son.

Buoyed up by his good fortune, McGowan went on the record officially near the end of last season announcing that he wanted to be a starter again. At first, the scribes, sages and keyboard warriors all thought it a mad idea. If he switched from being a reliever to a starter again the extra work could finally tear up his shoulder and end his injury-filled career for good.

To the surprise of many, the Blue Jays management humoured McGowan by giving him the go-ahead to train as a starter. They were making no promises after all. What harm could it do? At least, he would be in shape for the bullpen. The Jays top brass knew there was no need to think about McGowan being a starter during the off-season since there probably would be someone else better suited for the fifth spot in the rotation. A free-agent, no doubt, would be available or one of the six or seven in-house starting pitcher candidates would step up during spring training. McGowan’s injury issues might prevent him from trying out anyway. Right?

To be fair, the Blue Jays management have stood by McGowan through all his troubles. Perhaps that is another why this Savannah, Georgian wants to do his best for the only organization he has ever known.

During the winter, many believed it was all a mistake or just a rumour that McGowan would be a starter again. Even Blue Jays broadcaster Jamie Campbell’s cryptic tweet during the GM’s 2013 winter meetings in Orlando that McGowan would be a starter seemed surreal. It could not be true. Campbell must have got it wrong.

True to his word, McGowan trained hard during the off-season. He got in shape. He continued with Jamie Evans’s weighted-ball arm-strengthening program which he started in 2013 as have other Blue Jays pitchers such as Brett Cecil and Steve Delabar. McGowan says the program strengthened his arm in 2013 and what is more, may have helped him avoid further injuries.

McGowan arrived at spring training early like all the other starting pitcher candidates who are fighting for the fifth spot on the rotation (e.g., Drew Hutchison, Marcus Stroman, Sean Nolin, Kyle Drabek, Ricky Romero, and Todd Redmond). This is McGowan’s 14th Spring Training session with the Jays’ organization. He says he feels healthy and likes the idea that he is not being thought of, for once, as an injured player doing rehab work.

This writer likes the idea of McGowan coming back as a starter, but this writer is not as brave. The good in me wants Mr. Mc. not to go Braveheart and play it safe for both himself, family and career. The mad, crazy Celt in me wants Dustin McGowan to take out his claymore and whip the enemy. Many Jay fans will likely be as conflicted if this man takes the mound as a starter. We all want a hero, aye, but the price is high.