Long-suffering Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan has been shelved for at least two more weeks because of fatigue in his throwing arm, another setback for a player who has already been sidelined with injuries for almost two years.
Manager Cito Gaston revealed the news before the team hosted the Tampa Bay Rays in a spring training game Friday afternoon. He called the prescribed rest period a "step backward" and could not predict when McGowan might be healthy enough to return to active duty.
"I'm not concerned about us getting him back now," Gaston said. "I'm just concerned about him coming back whenever, whether it's two months from now or whenever it is healthy for his sake and his family's sake. The club? We're third."
McGowan had been ordered to rest his arm for seven days following his brief start with Toronto's triple-A affiliate last Friday. It was his first real game action since July 2008, when he was forced to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a fraying labrum in his right shoulder.
Rehabilitation has been a slow and remarkably treacherous process. McGowan missed all of last season because of the shoulder and added to his woes when he injured his left knee while running in Florida last July, leading to even more surgery.
"It's certainly got to be a disappointing concern for him," Gaston said. "He's a guy with a new baby, and he's a good person."
McGowan said the main concern is the fatigue, and not any underlying pain. He will not throw or lift weights for the two weeks.
"I'm fine," he said. "It's been a lot worse. This is actually kind of a relief, just to kind of rest back up."
The bad news continued for the Jays into the first inning of their game against the Rays, with first baseman Lyle Overbay falling awkwardly after making a catch. He limped off the field with what was later diagnosed as a left knee contusion, and is considered day-to-day.
There was a ray of good news. Pitcher Brandon Morrow completed his scheduled bullpen session without any pain or soreness in his right shoulder. He is scheduled to pitch three innings in a minor-league game on Monday, with hopes of being available when the season opens, on April 5.
"I've had this before," Morrow said. "It's just one of those getting-over-the-hill things."
McGowan, meanwhile, still has a hill to climb.
"He has to deal with it," Blue Jays pitching coach Bruce Walton said. "I'm sure it's not easy, but our long-term plan is to try to get him back on the field. And whether that takes a month, two months or three months, we're willing to be patient and get that done."
McGowan posted a 12-10 record in his last full season, three years ago. He recorded 144 strikeouts in 169 2/3 innings of work, and also pitched the 17th one-hitter in franchise history.
"I can't tell him much," Gaston said. "Just 'don't give up."'