The Toronto Blue Jays know all about Dustin McGowan’s promise. The 32-year-old has flashed electric stuff off and on since the Blue Jays first selected him in the first round of the 2000 amateur draft.
But that promise must translate to results for McGowan to enjoy sustained success in the Toronto rotation. Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker is optimistic there will be improvement when McGowan next takes the mound against the Baltimore Orioles Friday.
“Obviously we want to see the results a little better,” Walker said Tuesday. “I know he’d be the first one to say the same thing, so we’re expecting that. Physically he’s feeling great. So that’s great. We know he’s bouncing back the way he needs to bounce back.
“Now we need to see some results and get him deeper into that ballgame. I think he was not real thrilled with the results, and he’s looking forward to getting back out there.”
McGowan pitched just seven innings all spring, so he didn’t exactly get the chance to build his stamina as much as most starters. As a result, the Blue Jays are expecting him to go five or six innings per start.
“Ideally into that sixth inning,” Walker said. “His pitch count is getting up to where it needs to be, he needs to conserve some pitches, attack the strike zone a little bit earlier in the count.”
With McGowan expected to last five or six innings and Brandon Morrow on a similarly close watch, the Blue Jays shook up their rotation, placing R.A. Dickey between the two hard-throwing right-handers for some stability.
“They’re two guys we’re watching a little bit,” manager John Gibbons said of McGowan and Morrow Tuesday. “You can put Dickey in the middle and he can eat up some innings.”
J.A. Happ will make a rehab start at triple-A Thursday, which means the Blue Jays will soon have another option for the rotation. Gibbons said the Blue Jays haven’t decided whether Happ will need a second triple-A rehab start.
The Blue Jays were concerned that McGowan was tipping his pitches against the New York Yankees in his season debut Friday. As a result, Walker worked with the Savannah, Ga. native on his delivery to be sure his motion isn’t alerting hitters to what’s coming next.
Walker, who pitched on the Blue Jays with McGowan in 2005-06, believes the work will pay off against the Orioles. If not, it’s ultimately the results on the field that will determine what kind of impact McGowan makes in the rotation this year.
“With everyone right now we’re taking it game to game,” Walker said. “Obviously if you pitch well you stay in the rotation. We’re trying to win ballgames. But right now he’s worked really hard to get to this point. The first game didn’t go great, but I’m sure Friday night will be much better.”
Here are more of Walker’s thoughts on the Blue Jays’ starters:
On expectations for Brandon Morrow in his second start:
“Better results. I think his stuff in Montreal (against the New York Mets in spring training) was outstanding. I don’t think it was as good this past outing. I think his velocity was good, but I think he got around some of his breaking balls and didn’t have the same depth to them, so we’re looking for a little more depth on his slider, we’re looking to utilize that fastball equally as well and pound the strike zone. Our guys to be successful, we need to get ahead in the count, execute pitches and keep hitters off balance.”
On Mark Buehrle’s season debut:
“It was pinpoint control and command. You talk about what it means to be a successful major league pitcher and it’s command the baseball. Not only your fastball, but your secondary stuff. I think that’s the epitome of a major league starter. Watching that game (again), that’s probably the best I’ve seen him throw the ball. Navarro did a great job with him as far as calling the game, but he mixed up his pitches, he changed speeds and he located all of his pitches. He’s in a good place and we’re hoping that that continues.”
On Buehrle’s ability to generate called strikes:
“I think that shows the deception he had and that shows he’s mixing up his pitches. He kept them off-balance. There was no predictability to what he was doing.