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Dustin McGowan hasn't pitched in the big leagues since leaving a July 8, 2008, start against Baltimore due to shoulder pain. ((File/Associated Press))

Dustin McGowan's long road back to the major leagues is complete.

The Toronto Blue Jays activated the right-hander off the 60-day disabled list prior to Monday's home game against the Boston Red Sox.

The long road back

Dustin McGowan may not have played an MLB game since 2008, but the pitcher was busy recovering from multiple injuries during his three-year absence:

2008

  • July 8: Forced to leave game early against Baltimore with shoulder pain.
  • July 10: Blue Jays place McGowan on disabled list.
  • July 26: Jays announce McGowan would undergo season-ending shoulder surgery.

2009

  • McGowan expected to return during the 2009 season, but recovers slower than anticipated.
  • May: Begins throwing from ground level.
  • July 9: McGowan undergoes knee surgery, setting him back with six weeks of recovery.

2010

  • June: Expected to return but has season-ending surgery to repair torn rotator cuff.

2011

  • Aug. 2: Manager John Farrell says McGowan could be ready for September.
  • Aug. 10: Joins Double-A New Hampshire on rehab assignment.
  • Sept. 5: Blue Jays activate McGowan from 60-day disabled list.

The 29-year-old hasn't pitched with Toronto since leaving a July 8, 2008, start against Baltimore with shoulder pain.

Surgery followed soon after and he wasn't able to pitch until the spring of 2010 before more problems surfaced. The former first-round pick underwent a second shoulder surgery last June.

"It's been over three years — it feels like 10," McGowan said before Monday's game at Rogers Centre. "It seems like the last couple of days I've been a little nervous. It's like getting called up for the first time, that's what it feels like.

"I never thought about quitting. My wife was the biggest part of it. I think it took a toll on her more than it did me."

The Jays re-signed McGowan to a one-year deal worth $450,000 US back in December.

The move signalled general manager Alex Anthopoulos was not ready to give up on the once-rising star.

McGowan is 20-22 in his career with a 4.71 earned-run average. His best season was in 2007 when he finished 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA.

"Mentally I think it was the hardest part," McGowan said of his comeback. "Physically I knew at some point I would get back but it was all about my mind (and knowing) how long it was going to take. You have those good and bad days."

McGowan will be used as a reliever for the rest of the season.

"I hope to be a starter again," he said, "But I just want to finish this season out strong and look forward to that next year."

Meanwhile, Blue Jays manager John Farrell will be back in the dugout against Boston for the first time in 10 games after recovering from pneumonia.

Bench coach Don Wakamatsu ran the team in Farrell's absence