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Blue Jays' Dustin McGowan damaged some cartilage in his left knee while doing some routine running earlier this month. ((Winslow Townson/Associated Press))

Any faint hope the Toronto Blue Jays may have had that injured pitcher Dustin McGowan would return to game action this season probably went out the window on Thursday.

The 27-year-old right-hander's quest to return from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder hit another roadblock with news he recently had knee surgery.

McGowan damaged some cartilage in his left knee while doing some routine running earlier this month in Dunedin, Fla., and had an operation to repair it July 9.

The recovery time is expected to last six weeks, although that's not much of a setback given the slow pace of his throwing program. When it was suggested that McGowan couldn't catch a break, Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi quipped: "He did, he broke his knee."

"I feel bad for the poor kid," added Ricciardi. "He's like John Travolta, Bubble Boy, you know? Poor kid. He can't stay healthy."

Once considered an ace in the making, there are serious questions as to whether McGowan will pitch again. Shoulder injuries can be the most serious for pitchers and McGowan has made little progress in his rehab.

Initial projections had him returning as early as this May, but that has been consistently pushed back. The Blue Jays are now simply hoping he's ready to go next spring.

"He's somebody you put on the backburner," said manager Cito Gaston. "I think about him for his sake and hope he can come back and pitch again for himself. But I don't think about him coming back to pitch again any time soon."

'It's just another thing he's got to deal with'

McGowan was 12-10 with a 4.08 earned-run average during a breakout 2007 — coming within three outs of a no-hitter against Colorado — and was building upon that in 2008 before his shoulder problems surfaced.

He was 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 19 starts when he pulled the plug on a July 8 outing versus Baltimore after four innings.

This year, he hasn't thrown any meaningful pitches and was resting his shoulder at the team's spring complex when he was hurt running.

"From a throwing standpoint, it's not [a setback]," said Ricciardi. "It's just another thing he's got to deal with."

Gaston, meanwhile, said there was no firm return dates set for the team's other pitchers currently sidelined by injury. Each of Shaun Marcum (elbow), Scott Richmond of North Vancouver, B.C. (shoulder) and Casey Janssen (shoulder) is in various stages of a rehab stint, with Richmond likely the closest to coming back.

He has another start set for Saturday and if all goes well, he could rejoin the team next week in Oakland.

With files from The Canadian Press