BRADENTON, Fla. -- Dustin McGowan continued to make slow and steady progress toward a potential spot in the starting rotation by throwing 62 pitches in a Minor League game on Tuesday afternoon.
McGowan pitched four scoreless innings while allowing just three hits and recording four strikeouts without any walks. He threw 41 of his pitches for strikes and consistently hit 92-96 mph on the radar gun.
The start was another step in the right direction, but the true test will come in the next day or two when the Blue Jays determine how McGowan is able to physically bounce back from the extended outing.
"The big thing is that we don't get ahead of ourselves because we re-evaluate it almost daily to see how he feels," Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said. "I always remind him as well, I keep reminding him that at any time any concerns, any tweaks, anything at all, he needs to tell us, and he said, 'Absolutely.'
"He's obviously a big part of wanting to do this as well. As I told him when we were even exploring this, he needs to want to do this because we would never take chances with his career or with his health. He's the one who knows how he feels. He's been through this enough times. He has to communicate with us."
The organization's concern for McGowan's health is understandable considering his past injury history. The 32-year-old has undergone multiple surgeries on his right shoulder over the years and his healthy stints in the big leagues have been few and far between dating all the way back to 2008.
McGowan wasn't even considered a legitimate candidate for the starting rotation at the start of the spring, but that changed when the other competitors struggled. J.A. Happ, Esmil Rogers and Marcus Stroman all were unimpressive, while Todd Redmond is viewed by a lot of people as being better suited for long relief.
That created an opening for McGowan, but the fact that he has topped out at 62 pitches with less than a week to go until Opening Day is rather alarming. Pitching coach Pete Walker said late last week that the goal was to have McGowan throw 85 pitches in his final outing of the spring and that still remains a possibility.
The pitch count would have been higher earlier in camp, but a flu bug that has been going around the Blue Jays clubhouse in recent weeks put an end to that.
"He got set back when he got sick, he missed about 10 days," Anthopoulos said. "If he hadn't gotten sick, he would be more built up. So the question now is, obviously we're running out of time to get him built up for the season, so what do we do? He obviously had an ailment, or a sickness, or whatever it was for those 10 days with the flu.
"He missed all that time. We had built him up. He had thrown 36 pitches in a game, was out nine days or so, then we had to come back and I think he only threw 22 or 25 because we couldn't just run him out and build off the 36. He would've gone 36, 48 and we would've been that much farther ahead, but he lost that time and we had to start over again."
Time is now running out but barring any last-minute setbacks it still appears as though McGowan is very much in the running -- and quite possibly the favorite -- for the final spot in Toronto's rotation.
After rocky spring, Happ still focused on joining rotation
BRADENTON, Fla. -- J.A. Happ doesn't know what the future has in store, but as far as he's concerned, the expectation of a role in the starting rotation remains intact.
Happ very likely pitched himself out of a job with another disappointing outing on Tuesday afternoon, but that's not how he sees it. The veteran left-hander has yet to be informed by the Blue Jays that his starting days are over and until that happens Happ's preparations will continue.
The prospect of beginning the year in the bullpen is a notion that he claims hasn't even entered his mind yet despite a 20.57 ERA in four spring starts.
"I'm not thinking about that," Happ said when asked if he would be willing to accept a bullpen role. "I'll answer that question if someone else, one of the bosses, decides they need to ask that. We'll deal with that then. But that's not something that's on my mind."
Happ entered Spring Training with a job that was supposedly guaranteed. He appeared locked into the No. 4 spot of the rotation, but that changed a few weeks into camp when general manager Alex Anthopoulos first raised the possibility of two spots being up for grabs.
Anthopoulos based the comments on Happ's struggles on the mound and his lingering back injury. The back has since been taken care of, but the results remained the same throughout the Grapefruit League season. The low point came on Tuesday afternoon when Happ allowed seven runs on 12 hits over just three-plus innings.
Happ has now allowed 16 runs on 21 hits and nine walks in just seven official innings this spring. There have been control issues all spring, but even when his pitches enter the zone, Happ hasn't appeared to be fooling very many opposing hitters.
That has generated plenty of speculation that Happ's job is in serious jeopardy. Right-hander Dustin McGowan has emerged as the favorite for the final spot in the rotation while right-hander Todd Redmond is still in the mix. Based on the numbers alone, Happ doesn't appear to have a chance, but if the rotation has changed, then he's still in the dark about it.
"I don't know who's all saying they're changing," Happ said when asked about the changing dynamic of the rotation. "I guess I'm not part of those conversations. I haven't had any with anybody that's telling me things are changing, it's kind of [the media] saying that, and maybe you're getting more information than I'm getting. I take positives and I'm moving forward, planning on continuing to get better."
Gibbons optimistic Reyes will be ready Opening Day
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Blue Jays manager John Gibbons remains optimistic that shortstop Jose Reyes will be ready to play on Opening Day.
Reyes is currently listed as day to day after an MRI revealed a mild strain of his left hamstring on Monday afternoon. The Blue Jays have less than a week to prepare for the regular season, but Gibbons thinks that will be enough time to get Reyes back on track.
Toronto will attempt to give Reyes a start at DH later this week, but there is no immediate timetable for his return to the field.
"They said it's a very mild strain, so hopefully he gets in the next couple days, maybe DH, have him run at half speed, three-quarter speed," Gibbons said. "He's feeling pretty good after getting the results."
Reyes has dealt with this type of injury before. He had two stints on the disabled list and missed 29 games during the 2011 season with a similar injury. Reyes also has missed a handful of games over the years because of hamstring issues, but his only other time on the DL with that injury came in 2004.
The Blue Jays had been saying all week they thought this version of the injury was relatively minor, but it wasn't until the MRI results were revealed that the news became official.
"Yeah, you never really know. ... but he's had a history of problems with his hammies so I'm sure that [tightening] gets his attention," Gibbons said. "We're making sure we'll be good and cautious with it."