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What to do with Dustin McGowan?

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How long do we go with a starter that tires at 60 pitches?

I do like that the facial hair has returned
I do like that the facial hair has returned
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

After last night's game, the topic of discussion, for Blue Jays fans, is what to do about Dustin McGowan in the starting rotation? As noted in John Lott's piece in the National Post:

Fatigue starts to strike around the 60-pitch mark, McGowan said.

Obviously, if he's tiring around 60 pitches, he's not the optimum choice for the starting rotation.

The problem is that Jays knew, heading into last offseason, that they needed another starting pitcher, or two, and failed to get one.

Then the plan, going into spring training, was to have J.A. Happ and Esmil Rogers or Todd Redmond fill the last two spots in the rotation. Unfortunately:

  • Happ was awful and/or hurt all spring.
  • Rogers was, well the polite way to say it is, inconsistent all spring.
  • And Redmond was......Redmond.

The team was lucky that Drew Hutchison pitched better than anyone could have hoped. The problem was the last spot in the rotation. Two weeks from the end of spring training they still had no idea who would fill that spot. So they came up with the plan of rushing Dustin into starting rotation shape, but with only a couple of spring starts left, and a pitcher whose arm is attached to his shoulder with used chewing gum, it really seemed like a desperation move.

And, as desperation moves tend to, it hasn't worked out.

So the team has basically piggybacked McGowan and Redmond. The trouble is that, if Redmond was any good, he would have won the starter job in spring training. But he's not, and expecting he'll be good enough to carry his share of the load is overly hopeful.

The team has three choices, at the moment:

  1. Give McGowan's spot in the rotation to one of the three 'long men' in the bullpen, Happ, Rogers or Redmond. But if that was a good idea, one of them would have started the season in the rotation.
  2. Call up Marcus Stroman. I think this is going to end up being the choice, but I don't think the Jays want to do that, just yet, mostly for reasons of not wanting to start the arbitration clock, which, to me, is silly/stupid. We have an AL East that no team is running away with. We are doing as well as anyone. Adding a decent starter would make us that much better.
  3. Continuing along with McGowan and hoping that he can get past this 60 pitch ceiling.

Right now, 3 seems to be the choice. I don't know how much longer we can go like that.

It would be a different thing if the other 4 starters were all getting us 7 or 8 innings a start, but that's not happening. Since it isn't happening, even with the 8-man pen, we kind of have to reserve Redmond for the McGowan starts, which means Redmond will pitch more innings, and more higher leverage innings than any of us want to see. If he keeps having to pitch multiple innings, we are going to have more games like last night.

It would help if Dustin could find his curveball. As Lott says, in 2008, back when McGowan was last a starter:

McGowan threw his curveball 10.3% of the time, according to Brooksbaseball.net. This year the curveball has accounted for 1.2% of his pitches. He has said that so far, he simply has been unable to resurrect it.

Unfortunately, there isn't some magic potion that McGowan can take to suddenly bring the curve back. He's just going to have to keep working at it.

Having McGowan in the rotation really was the 'feel good story' of the start of the season, but it will be May soon. The feel good story is quickly turning into the produce or else story.