As Major League baseball’s spring training begins to hit full stride, this could be a make-or-break year for Long County’s Dustin McGowan.
But the 28-year-old McGowan said that, while in the past he has put pressure on himself to get back on the mound as quickly as he could, this year he’s not going to do that.
"The shoulder is feeling good," McGowan said. "The difference this year (in coming back) is that there is no timetable. I can take it slow and let my arm build its strength back."
The Toronto Blue Jays hope the former Blue Tide standout can return to his 2007 form. That year, McGowan took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Colorado Rockies and finished with a one-hitter. He finished the season with 12 wins and 144 strikeouts in 19 starts.
McGowan, a first-round draft choice in 2001 by Toronto, was entrenched in the Blue Jays rotation in 2008. But on July 8, against Baltimore, the right hander had to remove himself from the game due to pain in his right shoulder.
Nearly three years later, McGowan is trying to return.
The Jays have stayed loyal to McGowan, resigning him each of the last two years. Still, it won’t be easy for him to get his old slot back in the rotation and there has been some speculation he’ll be moved to the bullpen.
"As of right now the goal is to be in the starting rotation. There has been no discussion of a transition to the bullpen," McGowan said.
Spring training reports from Dunedin on McGowan have all been positive. He has been throwing 25-pitch sessions from the mound at approximately 80 percent effort. McGowan said the only pain he’s felt so far is normal pain from working his arm back into shape.
McGowan isn’t the only one dealing with the frustrations of rehab. So is his wife, Jilly.
"The hardest part of the entire rehab process is just watching Dustin struggle and work so hard for so long, because he is so deserving to be back in the game showing his God-given talent," she said,
McGowan also had a few words to pass on to the friends from the area.
"Thank everyone back home for being patient and let them know that I’m working very hard to get back on the mound," he said.