5:00PM Eastern

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:

Download

And we got to speak to Walton, as well:

Download

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!

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16 Responses to “McGowan Knocked Around”
  1. 1.

    I am very excited about McGowan, maybe more so than the rest of the rotation. People knock the Jays rotation as unproven, but that isn’t the same as unskilled. I think the jays have a very capable starting 5.

    - Bob
  2. 2.

    “The key to the entire day is this:  Dustin McGowan threw 68 pitches, and he feels fine. ”

    This statement got me thinking, and I don’t want my point to sound heartless, because I think we all love the McGowan story. But at what point do we stop talking about the fact that he ‘feels fine’, and start focussing on actual performance (location, movement on pitches, etc)?

    I get that this is still ‘just’ spring training, but there has to come a point when the rubber meets the road as a starter. That point hasn’t come yet, probably, but how much rope will he get in-season?

    MW: He’ll get a lot because, like Jo-Jo Reyes last year, he’s got a lot of talent and he’s out of options. But the “feels fine” thing is all about Spring Training – moreso for McGowan, for sure, but that’s really what Spring Training is about for any pitcher.

    - kevin
  3. 3.

    I know why they alternate righty lefty, but doesn’t that make it harder to string hits together? This team doesn’t hit lefties well, so wouldn’t it make more sense to load the top of the lineup with rightys, and maybe pinch hit later in the game if necessary? Lawrie just feasted on lefties last year.
    Score early and let the bullpen bring it home.

    MW: I think they’ll stack their righties when a left-hander starts against them.

    - George
  4. 4.

    Hey mike any guesstimate as to what the lineup will look like vs lefties
    Thank

    MW: Not really. Maybe Davis/Escobar/Bautista/Encarnacion/Lind/Lawrie/Rasmus/Arencibia/Johnson, but that’s a complete guess. And more what I’d do than what John Farrell would.

    - Craig
  5. 5.

    Didja read Griff’s doom-and-gloom piece about McG? Apparently since he didn’t strike out everyone he faced today, his whole ability to pitch again is called into question. Must be a slow news day……….. :)

    - ~julie~
  6. 6.

    it’s a shame for the jays that pena is back with tampa. pena has absolutely feasted on jays pitching and it could be more of the same this year.

    - carlos pena
  7. 7.

    Hey Mike,

    I love reading your responses to the combative replies to your blogs. It’s almost as entertaining as hearing you cut up some if the ridiculous comments on the jays talk. Here’s an idea… I think you should hand out a MVC (most valuable comment) award to such callers. The prize should be worth as much as some of the comments. I suggest a BJ Ryan rookie card or tickets to a leafs game… ha ha ha ha.

    What I’m curious about is this… I own and love both of Dirk Hayhurst’s books. Any ideas of how I could get these bad boys signed by him?

    MW: Ask him on Twitter (@TheGarfoose), see if he answers. I’m sure he’ll be spending some time around Toronto this year.

    - ted
  8. 8.

    (When healthy)Why is Lawrie not hitting at the top of the order?

    MW: Because he’s 22 and has played 43 games in the major leagues.

    - ScoobyBP
  9. 9.

    Mike, the comments from the pitching coach Bruce Walton was interesting.
    I heard Dwayne Murphy earlier in the season last year but then nothing through the summer or fall.
    Is he upset with the media or how he is portrayed?
    I enjoyed listening to his comments. None of them were disrespectful or rude. He offers insight and seems great on TV/radio.
    I know it was Farrell’s first season with Toronto last year and that would be a priority.I would like to hear more from Murphy and about the players’ routines or change in stances.
    I can respect insider strategies but I just found him to be perfect with his on air sound bytes.

    MW: I have spoken to Murphy a couple of times this spring, just not on air. I figure people want to hear more from the players than the coaches at this point, but I’ll what I can do to get him on this weekend.

    - Joseph P.
  10. 10.

    Mike, thanks for filling in some details on the McGowan outing, it paints a much different picture than we get from some other outlets.

    Question: With both Thames and snider playing so well, I’m wondering what happens if both continue to play very well say, into late May ie the winner with the Jays, and the other with Las Vegas, is there any scenario, excluding injury, in which the Jays try to find room for both on the big league club? For instance, if Rasmus dissapoints (not that I think he will) is there any chance snider gets moved to center? Or is this strictly a zero sum game, with the loser of the competition probably looking at a trade?

    MW: I don’t think the loser necessarily gets traded, but if they both continue to play well it will present a problem.

    - jb
  11. 11.

    Hey Mike, long time no see since the UofT BBall days…keep up the great work. My feeling is that given the Jays proclivity for a balanced rotation, Laffey comes into the picture if Cecil isn’t effective and Drabek is the “power-righty” replacement for McGowan if he breaks down. Thoughts?…

    MW: U of T hoops! Yeah! It’s an interesting thought, but I don’t think they’ll work it that way.

    - Phil Lawn
  12. 12.

    Mike,

    Thanks for the great work as always. Do you think that McGowan is this yr version of JoJo Reyes? Or should the Jays keep him even in a bullpen role should he struggle?

    Thanks,
    James

    MW: McGowan at least has a better big-league track record than Reyes.

    - James Ho
  13. 13.

    michael,
    oh my goodness. how to choose i ask you?
    snider continues on yesterday with hits, knocking in runs, stolen base, most probably a great catch here or there all the while
    and thames… multiple opposite field hits and walks i hear…
    both earning their stripes down in fla. it seems…
    tough call michael. tough call indeed.
    you know baseball… so what are we looking at here anyway?

    - darrell bishop
  14. 14.

    how about Dotel and Thames split DH; Snider in left; LInd and Encarnacion split first base. This gives the BJs left/righty combos; a better outfield and they don’t have to demote or trade a 400 hitter in the spring.

    MW: Dotel? I’m assuming you mean Davis. It’s not a terrible idea.

    - richard fink
  15. 15.

    Given the spring that both Thames and Snider are having, why aren’t the Blue Jays considering keeping both of them up in the majors. If they share at bats at LF, get occasional starts at other OF positions and DH, they should be able to get 300-350 ABs each. Keeping both up there will force them to continue to compete, and hopefully keep their trade values high.

    MW: Nobody with the Blue Jays seems to think either Snider or Thames would be well-served by not playing every day, and I agree.

    - V
  16. 16.

    Mike,
    Enjoyed meeting you in Dunedin. Are these guys this good or will reality bite when the games really count?

    Also, since Rasmus is currently not hilting, what would be wrong with giving Side some games in CF?

    MW: Nobody is this good, so reality will definitely bite them at some point. And Rasmus is the CF, Davis is his back-up. If Snider makes the team, he’ll be the left fielder.

    - IgorEllyn
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