Familiar bad news for Jays duo

Dustin McGowan, who has had a history of shoulder problems, now has a sore foot that could keep him...

Dustin McGowan, who has had a history of shoulder problems, now has a sore foot that could keep him from making his first start of the season on April 10 against the Red Sox. (Reuters)

Mike Rutsey, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:27 PM ET

DUNEDIN - Trying running the adage that having bad luck is better than no luck at all by Dustin McGowan.

The day after celebrating his 30th birthday, McGowan was forced to leave his start in a minor-league game in the second inning Sunday because of soreness in his right foot.

The soreness was diagnosed as plantar fasciitis, leaving both the right-hander and the Blue Jays rotation up in the air.

It is a cruel blow to McGowan, of course, as over the past three years, he has undergone more shoulder surgeries than Joan Rivers has had facelifts.

So, the black cloud that was constantly hovering over his head these past three years has not lifted.

But McGowan can still take comfort in the fact that he is still in the mix to be among the starters.

He’s better off, even with the injury, than outfielder Travis Snider who, following Sunday’s game against the Red Sox, was optioned to the team’s minor-league camp and is destined to open the season at triple-A Las Vegas.

In the faux battle for the left-field job, Eric Thames, as expected, emerged victorious.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos was watching McGowan at the Englebert Complex and, when he arrived back at the Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, he wasn’t pushing the panic button.

McGowan was examined by podiatrist Dr. Glenn Copeland, who told the Jays there was no tear in the tendon and that the recovery process was day-to-day.

However, even in a best-case scenario, it would seem that McGowan is toast as far as being ready as the Jays’ No. 5 starter on April 10 in Toronto against Boston.

On Sunday, though, the Jays weren’t even conceding that much.

“We’ve got to let it calm down but it looks like he’s going to be fine,” Anthopoulos said in the Jays clubhouse. “Do we know the exact time frame? No. But the fact that he didn’t tear it completely is good. It’s day-to-day, so we don’t believe it’s going to be that long.

“I wouldn’t make it that big a deal. If we knew it was going to be weeks or months, we would say that. But I wouldn’t jump the gun on this. He just needs to let it calm down. It might be a day or two of not throwing and (then) we’ll see how it goes.

“But, we’re never going to quit on this guy.”

Before the game against Boston, manager John Farrell was discussing the Jays rotation as being a horse race with McGowan one of the candidates.

The top two spots are set with Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow as the No. 1 and No. 2 guys, respectively. Right-hander Henderson Alvarez has wowed everyone this spring and also will claim a spot.

After that, it gets tricky.

Lefty Brett Cecil was the leading candidate to be the No. 3 starter, but on Friday against Tampa, he had control issues, walked five and allowed four runs in 22/3 innings. The jury is still out on him. But with McGowan’s injury, he benefits more than the rest.

That leaves lefty Aaron Laffey and right-hander Kyle Drabek as the remaining candidates for McGowan’s spot.

Laffey started against Boston on Sunday and, in the opening two innings, was tonged for five hits and three runs. None of the hits were cheapies as they were banged right on the screws and almost drilled holes in the outfield wall. It was not encouraging.

The Jays were probably thinking of starting Drabek at triple-A to let him mature and repeat his delivery. But if they need someone for only a start or two at the beginning of the season, he could be the guy.

As for Snider, he had an uphill battle against Thames, the incumbent and, although he hit four homers and drove in 15 runs in 17 games while hitting .271, it wasn’t enough.

Like Drabek, he needs to show consistency.

“It’s one of those things that both guys played well (this spring),” Anthopoulos said. “Combining last year with the performance of how Eric played, it’s just one of those things where we had to make a decision one way or the other.”

Anthopoulos, however, stressed it may not be permanent.

“We’re encouraged because everything was so much better,” Anthopoulos said of Snider.

NO EASING BACK IN FOR LAWRIE

Brett Lawrie was back in the saddle.

The Blue Jays third baseman who has not played since he tweaked his left groin back on March 15, was in the starting lineup in Sunday’s game against the Boston Red Sox.

It was no easing back into the lineup, either, as he faced Boston fireballer Daniel Bard.

Lawrie played five innings and had two at-bats. He flied out to right in the second and, with runners on first and third and none out in the fourth, grounded into a run scoring 6-4-3 double play.

“He was fine. He got five innings of defence under him,” manager John Farrell said. “He was upset at himself not driving in a run. He’s got to keep things in perspective. He’s had a seven-day break here.

“Everyone will have the day off tomorrow (Monday) and he’ll be right back in Tuesday night so he came out of the game fine.”

The Jays also had a scare when in the sixth, Jose Bautista was nicked in his right hand by Bard.

“We were fortunate to avoid something there,” Farrell said. “He took the glancing pitch off his thumb and index finger but fortunately the X-rays were negative. There was a little bit of swelling but he should be fine.”

 


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