"I pretty much knew the situation coming in," McGowan said. "It was an uphill battle anyway. I can live with that."
McGowan's brief start for Triple-A Las Vegas at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Friday afternoon marked his first game appearance of any kind since July 8, 2008. McGowan exited that last start against the Orioles with a right shoulder issue that has kept him on the sidelines for the past year and a half.
For McGowan, trying to get ready for Opening Day was something he hoped to do this spring. For the Blue Jays, the start of the regular season was never their target date for a potential return for the pitcher. The club has McGowan on a conservative throwing program and wants to make sure he is back at full strength before rejoining the Jays.
McGowan has made positive strides this spring, but his conservative schedule makes it most likely that he will need to open this season on the disabled list. As eager as McGowan is to complete his comeback, he understands that rushing things is not the answer.
"The most important thing is that I get healthy and stay healthy," McGowan said. "It doesn't make sense to try to get healthy to start the season and then get hurt again. You've got to get healthy where you can stay at and compete at 100 percent and then not worry about getting hurt."
Over 1 2/3 innings on Friday, McGowan allowed no runs, but gave up two hits and issued two walks with one strikeout. He ended his outing with two outs in the second inning after his pitch count climbed to 36 tosses. McGowan threw only 18 strikes and said he had trouble getting a feel for his pitches, especially his curveball.
"I just didn't have a feel for it today," McGowan said. "I bounced probably all of them but one. It'll come. I just have to give it a little more time."
Beyond struggling with his command, McGowan also had a hard time displaying the type of velocity he has in the past. The right-hander topped out at 88 mph with his fastball, a pitch he would consistently hit around 95 mph as a starter for the Jays a couple of years ago.
"That's not where I want to be," said McGowan, when asked about his pitch speed. "But that's about how I felt today."
McGowan said health-wise he feels fine, which is an encouraging sign. He said the current problem is more with fatigue -- something Toronto's training staff told him could happen this spring. After spending much of the past two years rehabbing his surgically repaired shoulder, McGowan is now trying to adjust to a regular throwing program.
There are still no bullpen sessions between starts for McGowan, who has essentially dictated his own schedule based on how he has felt after appearances. McGowan's routine consists of three long-toss sessions and one flat-ground throwing session between starts. The pitcher said he will wait a couple of days before deciding if he should alter his routine this week.
"I haven't thrown this much in a while," said McGowan, who will likely throw two innings in another Minor League game on Wednesday. "I'm throwing every five days again -- it's been a year and a half -- so it's just worn down right now.
"[The trainers] told me, 'You're going to go through that period, especially a dead-arm period, from not throwing as long as I have and then coming out and throwing every single day.' It kind of wears on you."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.