TORONTO -- Toronto fans have heard it consistently over Dustin McGowan's injury-riddled career, but the Blue Jays still consider the right-hander a piece of the future.

McGowan, who underwent season-ending right shoulder surgery on Aug. 9 after missing the entire year, is strengthening his shoulder through rehab but is not expected to begin a throwing program until December.

"He is following the protocol as it is outlined," manager John Farrell said. "His throwing program ... almost coincides with the normal offseason throwing program in advance of Spring Training."

Farrell said that date is Dec. 15, and that McGowan's post-operation throwing program is not too different from the beginning stages of the offseason throwing program, which all players undertake.

"He will advance through that to the point of getting on the mound and then like every post-op situation, you're adjusting according to how the body responds."

McGowan was penciled into Toronto's rotation to begin the year but was forced to the shelf with plantar fasciitis in his right foot prior to the start of the season before suffering a shoulder injury that ultimately led to surgery.

The 30-year-old has appeared in just five games with the Blue Jays since 2008, all of which came in 2011. He was signed to a three-year, $4.1 million deal in the offseason with a club option for 2015, despite his extensive history of arm troubles, which includes two previous shoulder operations as well as Tommy John surgery.

Farrell said, as far as he believes, McGowan is prepared to stay the course and eventually work his way back to Toronto.

"He has been frustrated, there is no doubt about it," Farrell said. "But I haven't spoke to him about any career-type-of decisions, by any means. I know we are all of the thought that he will continue on and exhaust every available resource and opportunity to get back on the mound."

Anthopoulos: Lind's future role up in the air

TORONTO -- Adam Lind is under contract with the Blue Jays next season, but his role and future with the club remain very much in doubt.

The Blue Jays owe Lind $5 million for 2013 and have three club options on him from 2014-16 totaling $22.5 million. After a difficult 2012 season, Lind's status in Toronto is murky at best.

Lind was optioned to Triple-A Las Vegas and placed on outright waivers in May, then spent time on the disabled list dealing with a chronic back issue that impaired his 2011 season.

"He has already been sent down at one point and he has been hurt," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "I think it's fair to say that if we feel that there is someone else that can do the job, we aren't going to be afraid to do that if that makes the team better."

In 73 games this year, Lind is batting .230 with nine homers, 33 RBIs and a .665 OPS.

"He certainly hasn't had the year he is capable of and we were hoping for him to have," Anthopoulos said. "He had the half-season last year where he was outstanding. His numbers at the break were outstanding, the latter half of the season, he didn't play well.

"This season he has been hurt and inconsistent."

Lind was a borderline All-Star during the first half of 2011, hitting .300 with 16 homers and a .864 OPS. But he struggled in the second half and never fully recovered from a back injury that forced him to miss 24 games in May and June. In the second half, Lind hit just .197 with a .589 OPS.

Anthopoulos said Lind's 2011 performance made it difficult for the organization to predict what it was going to get from him this season.

"Adam has the ability, we all know he has the ability. It hasn't come out the last few years," Anthopoulos said.

Regardless of whether the Blue Jays can upgrade in the offseason at first base/designated hitter, Lind will at least face internal competition in Spring Training from David Cooper, a 2008 first-round Draft pick who hit .300 with a .788 OPS over 45 games.

Anthopoulos has also mentioned that top-catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud could fight for a spot at first or DH, assuming incumbent J.P. Arencibia is back as the starting catcher.

If Lind is in a Blue Jays uniform next season, he may be better suited in a platoon role, as he has struggled to hit left-handed pitching. Lind is batting .181 with a .488 OPS against southpaws this season and .218 with a .602 OPS for his career.

Lind's OPS against righties is more than 200 points higher over his seven-year career.

"I can't sit here now, after a year and a half, and say I know what Adam is going to do next year," Anthopoulos said.

"The fact that he has been sent down once certainly points to the fact that if players don't produce, we will make changes."

Free-agent-to-be Villanueva proving worth as starter

TORONTO -- The Blue Jays have a big decision to make this offseason with regards to impending free agent Carlos Villanueva.

Villanueva, who started the year as a long reliever, has performed admirably in the starting rotation over 13 starts. The right-hander is 8-5 with a 3.58 ERA and has held opponents to a .240 batting average.

With the exception of Brandon Morrow -- who missed over two months with an oblique strain -- Villanueva has been Toronto's best starter this season, which will likely drive up his price tag as a result.

"Obviously, part of the criteria, and that's not to take anything away from him, but that's the unknown with Carlos," general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "He has never had 200 innings, he's never had 32 or 34 starts. I think we'd all say we love what we see with what he has done for us. He's a great teammate and all of those things, but we've only had bits and pieces of him starting."

Those bits and pieces included last season, when Villanueva made 13 starts but eventually had to go back to the bullpen following a stint on the disabled list with a right forearm strain.

He trained as a starter this offseason, though, and it looks like it has paid off. But manager John Farrell and Anthopoulos have consistently said they aren't sure how Villanueva will hold up over an entire season in the rotation, and Farrell has expressed a desire to see him go deeper into games.

Villanueva has only gone more than six innings and thrown more than 100 pitches four times this season.

Whether the Blue Jays are being overly protective with him or see signs of fatigue in the later innings remains to be seen, but they only have a few weeks left to come to a conclusion before he hits the market.

"We don't have enough information, but that's not to say we don't like him or don't want him back," Anthopoulos said.

"I don't want to doubt him. But I also have to be objective and realistic too. It's more how do you value a player. ... We've seen a lot of starters do well for two or three months and then the second half of the season the workload and all of that ends up having an impact. That's the unknown, and there's not enough time left in the season to have Carlos be a starter from Day 1 to see the body of work.

"But off the sample we have now, it has been great."