McGowan wins Blue Jays’ final rotation spot

Dustin McGowan. (Frank Gunn/CP)

The Toronto Blue Jays have officially named Dustin McGowan their fifth starter. He’ll make his first big league start since September 26, 2011 when he takes the mound for the Blue Jays’ home opener against the New York Yankees on Friday, April 4.

Drew Hutchison also officially earned a starting job, joining R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Brandon Morrow in the rotation. Dickey will start the season opener Monday, followed by Hutchison, Buehrle, Morrow and McGowan.

The Blue Jays placed J.A. Happ on the disabled list due to back soreness after a poor spring when he was extremely hittable and showed little control. As Mike Wilner explained Tuesday, the Blue Jays were left with no choice but to leave him off of the active roster.

McGowan, now in his 15th season with the Blue Jays organization, battled serious shoulder problems in recent years, missing three full seasons. But the 32-year-old returned to the big leagues as a reliever in 2013, posting a 2.45 ERA in 25 games with 26 strikeouts and 12 walks.

McGowan wanted to start, but the Blue Jays stretched him out slowly and until recently he seemed likely to start the season as a reliever. Entering the spring, Toronto seemed likely to sign Ervin Santana or go ahead with Happ. That made McGowan’s bid for the rotation a distinct long shot.

Out of options right-handers Todd Redmond, Jeremy Jeffress and Esmil Rogers made the team as relievers, which gives the Blue Jays an eight-man bullpen and a short bench.

Catcher Josh Thole made the team over Erik Kratz, and outfielder Moises Sierra got the nod over newcomer Matt Tuiasosopo.

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