DUNEDIN, FLA. - Early in the afternoon Dustin McGowan was grinning like the Cheshire Cat while discussing his latest injury woe.
Now we know why.
About four hours later the Blue Jays issued a release stating that the right-hander had signed a two-year extension that will pay him $1.5 million in both 2013 and 2014. The Jays have a $4-million option on him for 2015.
That tells you all you want to know about the seriousness of McGowan’s latest ailment, plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which flared up Sunday while pitching in a minor-league game.
That the Jays would reward McGowan with a two-year extension given the fact that he missed half of the 2008 season and all of 2009 and 2010 with shoulder issues and did not return to the Jays until Sept. 6 of 2011 is shocking.
McGowan was in the running for a spot in the rotation and appeared to be the likely candidate for the No. 5 spot.
However, when he threw a shoe — a racing term — at the Jays’ minor-league complex on Sunday in the second inning of what was supposed to be a five-inning assignment, it appeared to be yet another heartbreaking setback for McGowan, who turned 30 on Saturday.
Well, happy birthday Dustin.
What the contract says is the Jays are not concerned at all with either his foot or shoulder issues and are willing to roll the dice that he will be able to contribute this season and beyond.
It is another roll of the dice for general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who could not be reached for comment.
McGowan spent the morning portion of the Blue Jays’ off day undergoing treatment.
While explaining how he was feeling, both from a physical and emotional standpoint, McGowan dropped a mini bomb by casually stating that he suffered the same problem in his left foot at the start of camp and didn’t miss any time.
“I’ve had it in my other foot before so I kind of knew what it was,” he said. “But I’ve never had it in this foot (his right) before.
“I had it earlier in the spring (left foot) when I first got here. But it wasn’t as big a deal because it was the foot I landed on. This one’s different because you’ve got to push off on it.”
Getting back to his right foot, the most recent area of concern, McGowan was unusually casual.
“Actually I feel a little better today than I did yesterday,” he said. “It’s getting better actually.”
McGowan explained that he first felt the soreness following the first inning of what was to be a five-inning, 75-80 pitch outing.
“After the first inning I could feel my foot throbbing,” he said. “I didn’t know what it was, thought my shoe was too tight or something. The second inning, I couldn’t push off of it. It was almost like I was picking up my foot and just throwing so I figured I should stop right there before I do something to my arm.”
As for when he can get back on the mound and start throwing again, McGowan said it’s anyone’s guess but manager John Farrell helped fill in the blanks.
“He got his arm moving a little bit inside but hopefully we’ll put a ball back in his hand tomorrow,” Farrell said. “Hopefully he feels well enough to get on some flat ground and be able to play some catch just to be able to keep his arm moving. Day to day is the best way that we can describe it at this point, but it’s encouraging over what took place yesterday.”
Given the Jays’ history of not rushing their players back from injury plus the fact they just gave him a $3-million windfall, it would be no surprise if the Jays eventually placed him on the DL, backdated his injury and if he misses a start or two of the regular season, so be it.
As for any mental anguish, the fact that he missed so much time because of various shoulder surgeries and now his foot blows out on him, there was none. As long as it wasn’t anything to do with his shoulder again, McGowan would cheerfully undergo leg amputations.
“Not really,” he said with a bit of a laugh. “It’s just one of those freak things. Better my foot than my arm, so that I can deal with easy so I’m not worried about that.
“The biggest thing for me was when it started hurting, the first thought that came to my mind was my shoulder, let’s not do it just for my shoulder. If it’s coming out of the game, it’s coming out of the game.
“I’d rather take a week off for a foot injury than a career off.”
He’s faced that nightmare too many times in the past.
“If I have to stay here for a few days, it’s not a big deal,” he said. “I’ve found my way back out there.”