Unfortunate news out of Toronto today as Blue Jays pitcher Dustin McGowan has injured his shoulder once again. McGowan heard a pop in his shoulder while throwing at the team’s spring facility in Dunedin, FL. McGowan will certainly miss the remainder of the 2010 season due to what will be the second surgery on the labrum in his right shoulder. It seems possible, if not likely, that McGowan will also miss the entire 2011 season as well.
In 2007, the Toronto Blue Jays starting pitchers put together a combined 20.7 wins above replacement. Dustin McGowan and his 3.9 WAR was a large piece of that group; between him, Roy Halladay, and A.J. Burnett, the Blue Jays appeared to have the core of what could be a top-flight starting rotation for years to come. However, it wouldn’t last past 2008. McGowan’s first shoulder surgery came during the ’08 season, and Burnett left for the Yankees that offseason. Of the five starters for the Jays in 2009, only Roy Halladay also pitched in 2007, and he would be traded to the Phillies after the season.
Still, the Jays have some solid starting pitchers on their roster now, including Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow, and Brett Cecil, all of whom have at least 1.4 WAR on the season already. GM Alex Anthopolous and the Blue Jays hoped that McGowan would be able to return by May or June and give that rotation a boost – given the Jays’ hot start, McGowan’s addition would’ve been a sizable help in remaining in the playoff race.
Now, it seems that McGowan may go as many as three seasons between MLB appearances. The nearest analog for this situation appears to be Brewers pitcher Chris Capuano, who went from 2007 until 2010 without appearing in a game after two Tommy John surgeries, but he’s only thrown 4.2 innings for the Brewers this season.
The road back will be long and difficult for McGowan, and there’s no guarantee that he will be anywhere near the same pitcher upon his return. This is a large setback for the Jays organization, as McGowan appeared to be turning himself into one of the more reliable starters in the league back in 2008, and now his season and possibly his career is over.