Out of options McGowan 'remains a big unknown'

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Dustin McGowan missed all of 2009 following shoulder surgery and general manager J.P. Ricciardi went so far as to suggest that his career was in jeopardy, but now he’s former general manager J.P. Ricciardi and MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports “the hope is that McGowan will be ready to join the rotation competition” in spring training.
However, Bastian adds that McGowan “remains a big unknown” given that he hasn’t pitched since July of 2008 and had his recovery from surgery sidetracked by a knee injury. Bastian also notes that McGowan is out of minor-league options, which means he can’t be sent to Triple-A without first passing through waivers.
Normally that would be an issue, because several teams would no doubt take a flier on McGowan if available for nothing, but the Blue Jays can always get him to the minors while avoiding the waiver wire by making it a rehab assignment rather than a straightforward demotion.
In other words, if McGowan shows up at spring training looking like his old, pre-surgery self he’ll grab an Opening Day rotation spot. If instead he struggles in his return to the mound he’ll be placed on the disabled list to begin the season and then make his way back to the majors with a stay at extended spring training followed by a rehab stint. There’s no need to risk losing McGowan, at least until the Blue Jays find out whether there’s much left to lose following surgery.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).