It’s been a long and winding road for pitcher Dustin McGowan.
He was a first-round draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2000 and worked his way through the system to become a major league pitcher.
He made his big league debut July 30, 2005, and by 2008 was with the Blue Jays full-time.
But he missed three of the next four seasons with injuries.
Even with all those injuries, the 31-year McGowan isn’t ready to turn in his cleats. His rehabilitation process brought him to the Buffalo Bisons this weekend. He pitched one inning Saturday in the Herd’s 11-6 loss to Charlotte.
He threw just 11 pitches, six of them for strikes, getting the first two batters he faced to ground out and striking out the third.
“I thought he looked strong,” Bisons manager Marty Brown said. “He was down in the zone, a really heavy ball. I thought he pitched ahead in the count. He didn’t have anybody on base so we’ll have to see how he holds runners but I was really impressed with how he threw the ball. I mean he’s a pro. He’s been around. It’s just unfortunate he hasn’t been healthy over the last few years.”
Since 2008, McGowan has pitched only 21 innings in the big leagues. He missed all of 2009 recovering from debridement (fraying of the labrum) surgery. He missed 2010 after surgery to repair a torn right rotator cuff.
He returned to the mound in 2011 with rehab stints in Single-A Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. In 12 combined starts he had a 2.80 earned run average. With Toronto in 2011, he went 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA in five games, four starts.
McGowan then missed all of 2012 with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
This year, he stayed in extended spring training and is looking to convert from starter to reliever. He used a weighted-ball throwing program to enhance his recovery so that he can pitch on back-to-back days.
The real concern for McGowan isn’t necessarily in his performance. It’s in the way he recovers.
“So far it’s been good. Everything’s been going good,” McGowan said. “The most important part is how I feel. That’s been key so far.
“It’s been quite a process. This year I had to find that way to bounce back, I guess you could say, after each outing. I felt good when I pitched but not so good two, three days after. It was just finding that way to get it to where I could pitch and feel good the next day. That’s been happening so far lately.”
“The main concern we have is we want to make sure Dustin gets an opportunity to be healthy,” Brown said. “Whether he needs two days off or whether he needs to go one inning at a time for a while, that’s what we’re going to do. But I think he’s got a bright upside.”
Sunday afternoon, the Toronto Blue Jays claimed righty Thad Weber off waivers from the San Diego Padres and assigned him to Buffalo.
The 28-year-old Weber started the season with the Triple-A Tucson Padres of the Pacific Coast League. In six starts he went 4-1 with 26 strikeouts and a 3.93 earned run average. In April he was promoted to San Diego, allowing two runs in nine innings of relief work over three games.
Todd Redmond made his first start after spending the first 41 games on the Bisons’ disabled list with a right shoulder impingement. He gave up five runs on six hits with two walks and three strikeouts in 3∑ innings and didn’t get a decision.
Chad Beck picked up the win, giving up one run on two hits in 1∏ innings with two walks and a strikeout.
Blake Tekotte and Gordon Beckham combined to drive in five of Charlotte’s six runs. … Sunday’s attendance was 8,720. … The series continues tonight (7:05 p.m., Radio 1520 AM) with the Bisons scheduled to start Dave Bush (4-3, 5.25) against Charlotte’s Andre Rienzo (2-2, 8.27).