CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If reporters were surprised to find out that Dustin McGowan remains in the picture for a spot on the Blue Jays' Opening Day roster -- and they were -- just imagine how McGowan himself feels.
The right-hander has made rapid progress from shoulder and neck discomfort that sidelined him earlier this spring. As a result, he'll throw off a mound on Tuesday, and manager John Gibbons is not ruling McGowan out from a bullpen job to begin the year.
"It was a little bit of news to me too," McGowan said. "I'm going to get off the mound this next week and see how things go from there."
McGowan has begun throwing on flat ground, and that work has progressed well. He missed the entire 2012 season due to foot and shoulder injuries and hasn't pitched in a Major League game since September 2011. He has been a starter for the bulk of his career, but according to Gibbons, he could make the '13 Blue Jays as a reliever.
"He's in the picture," Gibbons said. "There's a chance he could make the team in that middle role. But it's getting to the point that we've got to get him on the mound quickly if that's going to happen."
McGowan has dealt with a litany of injuries throughout his career. He made more than 19 appearances in a season once in his career, when he went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA in 27 starts in 2007.
"Just to get off the mound, I'm very excited, but I'm also a little nervous too because it's been so long," he said. "We'll just see how things go Tuesday.
"I'm feeling good. A lot better than I thought I would right now. Especially after I had that little setback not too long ago. It just turned out to be something minor, like I hoped it would, and we'll move forward."
Romero pleased with progress in second start
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Ricky Romero would certainly welcome some better results, but he's not sweating it. For the second time in as many Grapefruit League starts, Romero was pleased with his performance despite being scored upon.
This time, the end result was better than last time out. He lasted two innings, allowed a run on one hit, struck out one and walked one. The hit was a Kevin Frandsen triple, and Frandsen scored on a wild pitch.
Still, overall, Romero and the Blue Jays were encouraged. The lefty struck out Darin Ruf on a very nice fastball, and he liked what he saw from his two-seam fastball.
"A hitter tells you a lot by his swings," Romero said. "[The curveball] felt good for me out of my hand."
Romero is looking to bounce back from a rough 2012, hoping to get back to the form that made him one of the American League's best southpaws.
"I felt good," he said. "I felt like the delivery is smoothing out a lot better. It's a work in progress. Early in spring, second start, I definitely feel pretty good."
DeRosa back in action, downplays back discomfort
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Mark DeRosa returned to action on Sunday, and it appears that Colby Rasmus won't be far behind.
DeRosa, sidelined for two days due to some back discomfort, started at third base for the Blue Jays on Sunday against the Phillies. He went 2-for-3 with a home run.
The longtime veteran downplayed the back issue, as did manager John Gibbons. DeRosa projects as the backup third baseman for the Blue Jays, and will also spend a bit of time pinch-hitting and playing first base.
"It feels good," DeRosa said Sunday morning. "I just needed an adjustment."
Rasmus has been dealing with a right shoulder injury. He is expected to return to action on Tuesday against the Orioles.
"He probably could have played today, but with the day off tomorrow, [and] it's a cool day, it makes sense," Gibbons said.
Lincoln to pitch in relief for foreseeable future
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- It appears the Blue Jays have changed their plans for Brad Lincoln. The right-hander will apparently remain in a relief role, rather than being stretched out as a starting pitcher.
Earlier in the spring, there was a plan for Lincoln to pitch multiple innings. That would condition him to pitch as a starter at Triple-A Buffalo, leaving him available to step in if the Blue Jays had injuries or other problems in their pitching staff.
Instead, Lincoln will pitch in relief for the foreseeable future. He's been much more successful in that role in his career, with a 3.38 lifetime ERA in relief compared to 5.65 as a starter. He has a chance to make the Major League bullpen coming out of camp.
"We have kind of backed off that [having him start] a little bit," said manager John Gibbons. "What's his strength going to be? He's got a shot to make the team in that multiple-inning role. He's been so good out of the bullpen in shorter stints. That's kind of what we're looking at now."
Gibbons indicated that even if Lincoln is sent to the Minor Leagues, he likely would not start.
Matthew Leach is a writer for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.