TORONTO -- The trials and tribulations of Dustin McGowan's Major League career are well known by Blue Jays fans -- glimpses of immense talent overshadowed by long-lasting injuries.
Now 31 and finally healthy for an extended period since 2008, the hard-throwing righty must relearn what made him successful in the past.
"At this point, I need to pitch more just to get that feel again," McGowan said. "The more you do it, the more it comes back to you. I didn't do it for such a long time, that it was like starting all over again.
"Each time you go out there, you get more and more comfortable. You get used to game situations, and that's all part of the game. You want to be comfortable when you go out there, obviously."
Last Sunday, McGowan found himself in a tight ballgame for the first time this season, and he flourished. With the club down a run, McGowan entered the game in the seventh inning in a pivotal matchup vs. the AL East-leading Red Sox, and he held them to a single hit over two innings with two strikeouts.
He followed that up by striking out the heart of the Tigers' lineup in order on Wednesday.
"He's going to start pitching in some more vital innings," manager John Gibbons said. "I think he's earned that right"
For a man who once took a no-hitter into the ninth inning vs. the Rockies in 2007 and has logged over 1,000 innings since turning pro in 2000, having to relearn a craft is a daunting task. It also speaks volumes of the time that McGowan has spent away from the diamond since the injury bug hit him hard five years ago.
In 2008, McGowan was forced to undergo the first of a series of shoulder surgeries -- this one to repair fraying in the labrum of his throwing shoulder. More surgeries followed, and other than a brief stint in late 2011, the right-hander has been away from the game that he loves.
Despite the hardships of what was essentially a five-year stint of rehab and surgeries, the stubborn Savannah, Ga., native refused to give up.
"There's no quit in me," McGowan said.
Although he admits that family and other factors played a role in his decision to keep pursuing his Major League dream, it was the game that he didn't want to let go.
"Never want to give up on something I love to do," McGowan said. "It's been my life since I've been growing up. [It] has been baseball. It's what I've known. It's what I wanted to do."
Now, after all his setbacks, he gets a chance to focus on pitching.
"The most important thing is just me getting back out there and pitching, learning the hitters again and learning myself and what it takes to succeed again," McGowan said. "There's always work to be done.
"This game right here is a game you'll never figure out. Just when you think you've got it figured out, it'll come back and bite you in the butt. So there's always work to be done. I want to learn. I want to learn every time I go out. I want to work on something. The only way to do it is by pitching."
Toronto ensuring Lawrie gets ample at-bats in rehab
TORONTO -- Brett Lawrie played six innings with Class A Lansing on Thursday, and all reports are positive.
"Health-wise, he felt good. His ankle felt good," manager John Gibbons said. "The main thing is his ankle. Get him running around."
Although health remains the No. 1 priority with the Blue Jays and their third baseman, they also refuse to bring Lawrie up before he's ready this time.
Lawrie struggled offensively when he returned to the Blue Jays in April -- he had only taken a handful of at-bats during his rehab assignment -- and he missed most of Spring Training with an oblique issue.
"We want him playing good. .. We want to make sure he looks good, though, especially since last time," Gibbons said.
The 23-year-old managed to hit just above the Mendoza line at .209 with a .268 on-base percentage in 37 games this season. However, the Blue Jays aren't looking for Lawrie to make any mechanical changes to his swing. They just want him to get some at-bats.
For Friday, at least, those will come at Lansing, before moving to a higher level, likely Double-A New Hampshire, over the next couple of days.
Toronto eyeing post-All-Star return for Cabrera
TORONTO -- Blue Jays left fielder Melky Cabrera ran for the first time Friday since being placed on the disabled list with left knee tendinitis.
Cabrera had been taking batting practice with the club, but has largely avoided stress on his legs.
"He's starting to feel better," manager John Gibbons said. "You figure [rest has] got to help a little bit."
The hope is that the minor ailments that have hampered Cabrera for most of the season will be alleviated by a little rest.
"Your legs are everything in hitting: the balance, the power, the driving," Gibbons said. "I think it's got to help somewhat."
Despite being eligible to return from the DL two days before the All-Star break, the Blue Jays may wait until after the Midsummer Classic to activate him to give him some additional time off of his legs.
However, no matter what return date the club has in mind, Cabrera will need at least a few at-bats in the Minor Leagues before returning.
"He's going to need to go get some at-bats," Gibbons said.
Evan Peaslee is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.