Act One...Things Fall Apart: Dustin McGowan and the Jays' Pitching

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So Dustin McGowan's shoulder soreness isn't anything to worry about, but the Jays are slowing him down.  Cito has made some less than encouraging comments recently regarding Dusty's 2009: 

"It might be longer than [May]. We just kind of put him on the back burner and hope that he can come back, whether it's June or July or even next year. We just hope that he can get that shoulder back together and be able to pitch again. Right now, I can't tell you when."

I suppose the good side of this is that the Jays' pitching is looking pretty good right now and might be able to better cope with an extended McGowan absence than one might think.  David Purcey had a nice appearance yesterday, tossing 4 innings and allowing just 4 singles and no walks, while striking out 2.  He could be a candidate to put things together this year - don't forget his K numbers were great in 2008 while his walk numbers look ugly at first glance but are weighed down by his first couple of appearances.  Once he became a regular rotation member, he had a very nice walk ratio of 2.8/9 innings.  Now, I normally don't like to just pull out a few bad starts but when you're talking about spot starts that just happen to be a guy's first taste of the majors, you can make an exception.  If he can maintain that this season and continue to strike out more than 7 batters per nine innings (he actually struck out 8.03/9 last year, he could be a fine pitcher this season. 

Though I don't think it'll happen, Brett Cecil has to be considered a real candidate to make the rotation.  Cecil pitched the first 3 2/3 innings yesterday, walking 4 but just 1 hit and striking out 2.  Cecil was pretty hard on himself over the performance:

"Four walks is not really me, hasn't been me the past couple of years," said Cecil, who threw 27 pitches in the third inning. "It's really frustrating. I'd rather give up four home runs than four walks.

 

Honestly, to me it was somewhat of a failure, those four walks," he added. "Walks are a big thing for me. I hate giving them up more than most people. One or two walks a game is not bad, but four in 3 2/3 innings, it's just not good."

Cito didn't seem too concerned though:

"He threw more pitches than we'd like to see him throw, but it's just a step forward, not a step backwards," he said. "He held them to no runs and one hit, right? Hey, I think that's a pretty good job myself.''

Brad Mills is another guy who is maybe not likely to make the rotation out of the spring, but the Jays love him.  He's looking like he'll be able to contribute in 2009, if needed, once he gets some more experience in the high minors.  And Ricky Romero isn't ready to pitch in the majors yet and is probably behind Mills and Cecil, but could also contribute this season.

Meanwhile, Matt Clement isn't doing too badly and could also be a credible rotation candidate.  My hopes aren't too high, but he's looking decent.  Scott Richmond has returned from his WBC duties and although JP characteristically said he was "back to square one," he has looked fine so far in limited action.  Neither is a guy who you want to plan your 2009 season around, but either could come in and do a good enough job. 

As for Casey Janssen, he is moving slowly but surely.  He'll start the game today against Detroit and that'll be a good test.  He may be in AAA to start the season just to prepare a bit more, but I'm hoping the Jays take that route rather than sticking him in the bullpen.  Janssen, who is less than a year older than Purcey, should be starting for the Jays in 2009.  And don't forget that Arnsberg says Casey will be ready to go 100 pitches by the time the season starts.  Barring any setbacks, of course, but thusfar there haven't been any. 

Of course, anchoring the rotation, you've got Doc, who looks as deadly as ever thusfar, and Litsch, who has done nothing but pitch effectively for the Jays for the past two seasons.  And the Jays' very fine defense and deep bullpen will help.

The message here is that the Jays shouldn't feel compelled to rush McGowan back. It'd be great if he were able to play by May, but it doesn't sound like it's going to happen.  The Jays have some options, though, and similar to the last two seasons, they have the chance to allow the McGowan injury to see what they have in some promising young pitchers.  This has worked out well for the team in the past few years.

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