Baseball teams live and die with their rotation. With the regular season around the corner, the Toronto Blue Jays unveil a lineup that starts with an ace and ends with a wild card.
Here is a look at the five starters that will make up Toronto's starting rotation.
Unfulfilled promise should be the headline on the baseball card of this lanky right-hander, whose pitching career has been dotted by one medical setback after another. The Blue Jays are hoping all that is now in the past, announcing on Wednesday that the 32-year-old has secured the fifth and final spot in the club’s rotation. McGowan has been limited to 30 major-league appearances since he was felled by a shoulder injury in July, 2008, but he has pitched solidly during spring training and beat out lefty J.A. Happ for the final spot. The Georgia native will make his regular-season debut April 4 when he will be the starting pitcher in Toronto’s home opener before a sold-out house at Rogers Centre against the New York Yankees.
A first-round pick out of high school in 2000, McGowan missed all but six games of the 2004 minor-league season because of right elbow ligament replacement surgery.
After posting a 12-10 record in 27 starts for the Blue Jays in 2007, McGowan’s injury issues started early-on in 2008 when he was pulled from a start on July 8 with arm soreness. On July 26 it was announced McGowan would undergo season-ending surgery to repair fraying of the labrum in his shoulder.
In 2009, McGowan started throwing in May but his recovery was hampered in July when he injured his left knee while jogging that required surgery to repair a torn cartilage and he missed the rest of the season.
In 2010, still bothered by shoulder soreness, McGowan underwent the surgeon’s knife for a third time on June 22 to repair a “significant tear” in the rotator cuff which kept him off a Major League mound until Sept. 6, 2011, the last time he has made a start in the majors.
Hoping to make the pitching staff for the 2012 season, McGowan was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis to his right root during spring training and landed once again on the disabled list. Back on a throwing program a month later, McGowan was shut down for the rest of the year with right shoulder inflammation.
McGowan’s shoulder was still giving him issues at Toronto’s 2013 spring training camp and he went on the DL once again to start the season. He was re-activated on June 8 and was pitching well out of the Toronto bullpen before he was diagnosed with a right oblique strain in August that necessitated another one-month stint on the DL.
R.A. Dickey, the knuckleball connoisseur, will start for Toronto in Monday’s opening game of the regular season in Tampa against the Rays. The 2012 National League Cy Young award winner, Dickey’s numbers fell off during his first year in Toronto where he was susceptible to giving up the long ball. He surrendered 35 home runs last season, the second-highest total among American League starters. But Dickey put together a reasonable second half and hopes to carry the momentum into the new year. After going 20-6 in 2012 with the Mets, Dickey’s record dipped to 14-13 last year.
Drew Hutchison has showed that he has fully recovered from Tommy John surgery that interrupted his rookie season in 2012, arriving in spring training with bump in his velocity that will no doubt assist him in his ability to strike out batters. The baby of the staff at 23, Hutchison was 5-3 with a 4.60 ERA in 11 starts with the Jays early into the 2012 campaign when he blew his elbow out in mid-June.
Mark Buehrle just keeps on rolling and, at age 35, the Blue Jays are hoping for another workmanlike performance from the veteran left-hander. Although he is by no means a power pitcher, Buehrle relies more on guile to get the job done. And he is an innings eater, logging 203 2/3 innings pitched last season, the 13th consecutive year he has surpassed the 200-plus inning plateau.
Brandon Morrow hopes his injury woes are also a thing of the past with stints on the disabled list in each of the last three seasons conspiring against his maturation into the ace of the staff. Last season it was a right forearm strain that limited Morrow to just 10 starts before he went on the DL on June 1 for the remainder of the year. Morrow arrived in camp this year weighing close to 220 pounds, adding 16 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame during the off-season that the 29-year-old hopes will help fend off fatigue that sets in over the course of a long season.