DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Jeff Mathis hasn't garnered much of a reputation because of his hitting skills but the Blue Jays believe there is more offensive talent than meets the eye.
The 28-year-old is a career .194 hitter in parts of seven big league seasons and was acquired for his abilities behind the plate -- not in the batter's box.
Anything Mathis can provide offensively likely will be considered a bonus this season but that doesn't mean the club has extremely low expectations.
"We see a guy that has strength, athleticism and bat speed which would leave you to believe there's more than a .190 hitter in there," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said.
"The thing we've talked about, and just tried to instill into him, our belief and what we see and then to provide those opportunities at the plate ... I think we see a guy that's capable of more than what the performance numbers have shown."
McGowan sharp in two-inning spring debut
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Dustin McGowan made his spring debut on Saturday afternoon with a pair of scoreless innings against the Astros.
Toronto's right-hander didn't surrender a run while allowing just one hit and striking out one. He threw 15 of his 24 pitches for strikes, taking another step forward in his quest to lock down the No. 5 spot in the Blue Jays starting rotation.
"I still have a couple of things that need to be fine-tuned," McGowan said. "I haven't really started throwing the curveball.
"It's something I'm going to work on here in the next few weeks because I'm going to need that to try to take off a little bit of speed off of a pitch. I got to get working on that a lot."
McGowan's best pitch on Saturday was his sinker, but he also managed to strikeout J.D. Martinez in the first inning with a very impressive slider.
The 29-year-old consistently hit 93 mph on the radar gun with his fastball, but McGowan said that's something he doesn't really concern himself with anymore.
"I'm not sure what it was but it felt good coming out and as long as it feels good, velocity is just a number, as long as you get guys out it really doesn't matter," McGowan said.
"Once you get to the big leagues it doesn't matter how hard you throw anymore. These guys can hit anything. I don't care if you throw 105 mph, if it's straight, they can hit it. You have to learn how to pitch and rely on location and movement."
McGowan is in the middle of his first normal Spring Training in recent memory. He missed more than three years of action in the big leagues because of multiple surgeries to his right shoulder but finally appears to be on the right track.
The native of Savannah, Ga., returned last September and proceeded to make four starts while on a strict pitch count for each outing. He posted a 6.43 ERA in 21 innings, but more importantly the overall quality of the pitches started to resemble the type of pitcher that was one of Toronto's most promising starters in 2007.
"More than anything this has got a chance to be a great example of loyalty on both sides," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "The organization had stood by him, they believe in him as a person, and obviously as a pitcher, and his loyalty to staying committed to the rehab process he's going through. The early returns have been very positive."
Blue Jays cut six players from big league camp
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Blue Jays made their first round of cuts from their Major League camp on Saturday morning.
Catcher Carlos Perez, catcher Brian Jeroloman, infielder Brian Bocock, outfielder Ricardo Nanita, right-hander Ryan Tepera and right-hander Scott Richmond were all sent to the Minor League camp at the Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin.
The Blue Jays now have 58 players remaining in camp and aren't expected to make another series of cuts until a series of split-squad games are out of the way next week.
"We're at that point in camp where we're trying to get a focal group in here," Blue Jays manager John Farrell said. "We've had a lot of good impressions and a lot of good play by a number of players here, but it's getting to that point where we need to pare down and we've got two positions on the field ... that we really have to hone in on."
One of those two positions can be found in left field where Eric Thames and Travis Snider are in a heated competition for the starting job. Snider made yet another strong impression on Saturday afternoon against the Astros with his third home run in as many games.
Snider now has three home runs and seven RBIs while posting a .294 batting average in six contests. One of the biggest benefits in Snider's current situation is that he has shown an ability to have quality at-bats against lefties as evidenced by his homer on Saturday against Houston's Zach Duke.
"I know it's early in Spring Training, but what he's doing against left-handers is impressive," Farrell said.
"I think what you're seeing is a hitter that is maturing and picking out spots to attack first-pitch fastballs. You see it pretty often, I think, with left-handers anytime they face a left-handed pitcher they're going to try to get that first-pitch fastball and when he's gone after it he hasn't missed it."
The other job that's still up for grabs is the utility-infielder spot. Omar Vizquel is the favorite but the team is also considering Mike McCoy and Luis Valbuena.