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McGowan reviving curve for new starter role

McGowan reviving curve for new starter role

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If Dustin McGowan is going to make a successful transition to the starting rotation, he'll have to re-learn one of his old pitches.

McGowan spent the past year working out of the bullpen and only really needed to rely on his fastball and slider. He also throws a changeup, but it's not a pitch that arrives with enough decreased velocity to really keep hitters guessing in the batter's box.

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The lack of offspeed pitches isn't an issue during short stints, but now that he needs to go through a lineup multiple times, he is attempting to add a curveball to his repertoire. It's a pitch he hasn't really used in three years, and it still has a long way to go before being effective.

"I'm trying to throw curveballs, but they're just not real crisp right now," said McGowan, who was named the club's No. 5 starter on Wednesday. "I'm trying to get a feel for it. I have to, because that's a change-of-speed pitch for me. Most of my other pitches are hard, my slider's hard, so I need something to keep hitters off balance a little bit."

McGowan tried to use a curveball for the first time this spring during a four-inning start in the Minor Leagues on Tuesday. The results weren't very encouraging, but that didn't come as a surprise to McGowan, because even when he was a full-time starter from 2006-08, it caused him some issues.

Repetition will be key, but there's a limited amount of time remaining this spring to refine the pitch. McGowan will throw in a simulated game on Sunday afternoon, and that will be his final outing before a regular season start on April 4.

"For me, it's always been the hardest pitch to throw," said McGowan, who last started a Major League game on Sept. 26, 2011. "It's one of those pitches you have to get a feel for and just keep throwing it until you find it."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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