11:35 AM Eastern
Dustin McGowan threw his second simulated game of the spring this morning, and once again passed every test with flying colours.
This game was different from the last one – there was actually a defense behind him, for one, and while he still threw only two innings, the goal this time was for him to throw between 40 and 45 pitches. He wound up throwing 44, 27 of them for strikes.
Ironically, McGowan didn’t need the defense in his first inning of work. He struck out all four batters he faced (Aaron Mathews, John Tolisano, Chris Aguila and Tyler Pastornicky), kind of. Catcher/ umpire C.J. Ebarb lost track of the count with Tolisano up, so Tolisano actually struck out swinging on a 4-2 fastball.
In the second inning, McGowan gave up a hard-hit ground single up the middle to leadoff man Moises Sierra, but got Eric Thames to ground into a 3-6-3 double play on the next pitch. Mathews then grounded out to third on a 1-0 delivery, which means that McGowan would have gotten his three outs on just six pitches, but he needed to throw about 20. So Tolisano came back up and gave the assembled group of coaches and staff (I was the only reporter there – dig me) a collective heart attack by shooting a hard grounder right back through the box. McGowan twisted out of the way and it got through for a single. Aguila then struck out again and Pastornicky grounded into a game-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Two innings, ten outs – as opposed to the two innings, three outs that McGowan threw last time. Time of the game – 27 minutes.
More importantly, McGowan looked and felt great. The fastball was firm and strong, and not dead straight, probably in the 92-93 mile an hour range. He threw a couple of good change-ups and a couple of very good sliders. He seemed to tire a bit at the end of the outing, and the ball started to come up, but again, this was another test passed with flying colours.
The stuff he is showing now is good enough for major-league work, for the Jays’ brass it’s just a matter of McGowan being able to bounce back and to be stretched out. I still believe they’re leaning towards starting him on the disabled list, keeping him back in extended spring, until they’re sure that he’s strong enough and ready to throw 100 pitches in the majors every five days.
If McGowan feels no more than normal soreness tomorrow and the next day, the next step will be for him to pitch in a minor-league game, likely on Friday. Chances are he gets at least two of those before he makes an appearance in a Grapefruit League game, if he does at all. But all signs are fantastic to this point – even moreso when you consider that even McGowan himself was thinking just a few months ago that there was a good chance he’d never pitch again.
I talked to Dustin right after the sim game, and that interview will be on this afternoon’s pre-game show – tune in, it begins in about an hour!
Today’s will be my last Grapefruit League game of this spring, so it’ll be your last chance to JaysTalk it up with me from FLA – don’t waste the opportunity!
I’m not going to post on the blog after the game today, since we’re following up the broadcast with the annual tradition of Birthday Chang’s. But I’ll have something up here tomorrow, before I head home. I’ll answer yesterday’s comments and as many as I can of today’s during the game.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!