McGowan Out For Year Following Tommy John Surgery

By Chris Kline
May 13, 2004

Apparently Blue Jays righthander Dustin McGowan had due cause for posting two consecutive poor outings after all.

And the hype the New Hampshire media created about McGowan moving up to Triple-A after just four starts had nothing to do with it.

McGowan complained of elbow soreness after he allowed five runs on seven hits last Saturday in Reading, Pa. He traveled to Birmingham, Ala. to be examined by Dr. James Andrews, who discovered a torn ulnar collateral ligament. McGowan had Tommy John surgery Thursday morning to repair the elbow and is lost for the season.

McGowan’s elbow troubles are not necessarily new. It flared up on him his senior year in high school and almost caused Toronto to void his contract after he signed for $950,000 in 2000. He was handled carefully, with 2002 his first year in a full-season league, and subsequently had remained healthy, making 28 starts each of the last two seasons.

That will not happen this year.

“He’s only 22 years old, so if it’s ever going to have to be done, it’s better to have it done; now’s the time to do it,” said Charlie Wilson, the Blue Jays’ manager of minor league operations. “It’s a real shame that it’s happened, but now Dustin needs to focus on rehabbing correctly and trusting the people around him.”

McGowan is expected to begin his rehab in Dunedin, Fla., next week. He will not be able to throw for 16 weeks before the Jays will ease him back into a light throwing program.

“It’s very early to say anything concrete about the rehab,” Wilson said. “But we hope to have him back on the mound for spring training 2005.”

McGowan was untouchable through his first four starts of the season, going 2-0, 1.21 and 21 strikeouts in 22 1/3 innings. But he lacked command in his final two outings–allowing 11 earned runs in just 8 2/3 innings as his ERA ballooned to 4.06. He averaged nearly a walk per inning in both starts and did not figure into either decision.

“The velocity was definitely there,” an AL scout said after seeing McGowan’s performance May 2 against Binghamton. “But there was no command at all. He was all over the place. The walks were one thing, but he was leaving fastballs up in the zone, which is uncharacteristic for him.”

“I really had no feel for anything,” McGowan said of the start. “I can’t really explain why, but I couldn’t command the fastball and I struggled with my offspeed stuff too. I started walking guys and that always leads to bad things.”

McGowan gave up two homers in that outing against the B-Mets as a result of the lack of command on his 94-95 mph heater and then another May 8 against Reading.

“Everything we heard about him was how he pounds the ball and keeps it down in the zone,” Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said after McGowan’s start at FirstEnergy Stadium. “But there were some mistakes left up, I guess. All I know is he was throwing hard.”

The Jays placed McGowan on the 60-day DL to make room for recently acquired second baseman Frank Menechino on the 40-man roster. They also promoted righthander Francisco Rosario (himself a Tommy John alumnus) to take McGowan’s spot on the Double-A roster.

“I feel badly for (McGowan),” New Hampshire manager Mike Basso said. “His work ethic will allow him to come back on time. He’ll come back through the proper steps of rehabilitation.”