While his teammates enjoyed a three-hour bus ride to the beautiful new Red Sox complex in Fort Myers, Dustin McGowan stayed behind to get his work in in a minor-league game against the Yankees’ A-ball squad at the Bobby Mattick complex in Dunedin.
Results-wise, things didn’t go well, but that wasn’t really the focal point of the afternoon.
Facing a bunch of kids who are a long, long way from the bright lights of the big leagues, McGowa struck out three of the first four batters he faced, then started to get lit up.
With one out in the second inning, a line single to right field was followed by a hot shot down the line past a diving third baseman (Kellen Sweeney, I believe) to cash a run. That runner (I have no idea who any of the Yankees were, sorry about that) moved to third on a wild pitch as the next hitter struck out, and McGowan walked the next on five pitches. An RBI double into the right-field followed and that was the end of the inning, even though there were only two out.
Minor-league games are even more fake than the fake games that go on in the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues, and teams have a lot of leeway with regards to the structure of the actual game itself. That last double came on McGowan’s 30th pitch of the inning, so they just shut it down.
In the third, having discussed the issues in his delivery from the stretch that got him so out of whack the inning previous, McGowan struck out the leadoff man, then issued a walk and gave up a ground-ball single. He got a double-play ball from the next hitter, but whoever was playing second base mishandled it and everyone was safe. A grounder to short followed for the inning’s second out, and the inning was stopped.
McGowan threw just 17 pitches in recording two outs in the third, but the Blue Jays wanted him to sit through a half-inning of watching his team hit one more time, then throw a few more pitches before his day was done (you’ll hear pitching coach Bruce Walton refer to that as an “up-and-down”). He went back out in the fourth to face two more hitters and gave up a bloop single to centre and a line single to left – both runners wound up scoring against a relief pitcher to be named later.
So for the afternoon, McGowan pitched in four innings though he only managed to record seven outs. His line for the minor-league affair, therefore, is as follows: 2.1 ip, 6 hits, 5 runs, all earned, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts. He threw 68 pitches, 40 of which were strikes.
The key to the entire day is this: Dustin McGowan threw 68 pitches, and he feels fine. He held his velocity from the beginning of the game to his exit, hitting 96 on the gun in the fourth inning. And while velocity isn’t top of mind when discussing a guy like Brett Cecil, it certainly is when McGowan is the topic, given his injury history and, more importantly, the fact that he’s a power pitcher.
If he continues to feel fine in the morning, and there’s no reason yet to believe that he won’t, he’ll go back into what’s been an astonishingly normal throwing program and will pitch five innings against the Red Sox on Sunday in a game we’ll have for you along the Blue Jays Radio Network, unless the Blue Jays choose to stick him in another minor-league game.
Here’s what McGowan had to say to the assembled media (all four of us) after his outing:
And we got to speak to Walton, as well:
The main squad of Blue Jays is getting set to go against the Red Sox as I write this, and while I’m not there to see it (at this point, I wouldn’t make it until the third or fourth inning, anyway), I will be watching the game on television (because I have MLB TV in my condo – it’s also available through NESN on the Rogers Extra Innings package, I’m led to understand) and will be on The Twitter throughout the game. If you want to tweet with me, give me a follow @wilnerness590.
Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar are both playing in the game, and yet Johnson is leading off with Escobar hitting second. It’s interesting, though I don’t know whether or not it’s a one-off. Johnson gets on base very well, but also strikes out a lot. Escobar is a bat-control guy who also gets on base and is very good at the hit-and-run, which makes him a perfect fit in the second spot in the order. But John Farrell has said for a long time that he likes a left-handed bat in that spot and prefers to alternate righty-lefty all the way down the line-up, if he can. It’s something I’ll ask him about prior to Wednesday’s game against the Orioles in Sarasota, in which Kyle Drabek is scheduled to start and throw four innings while Ricky Romero throws five (and Sergio Santos one!) in a minor-league game.
Speaking of that game against the Orioles, Brett Lawrie’s name has been removed from the travel squad. He may get into the line-up Thursday home to the Phillies (we’ll have it for you on mlb.com), or he may still be a few days away, nursing that mild groin strain.
Comments are welcome – I read them all and respond to most!