Dustin McGowan will make another crucial start when the Blue Jays visit the Pirates on Sunday afternoon in the finale of their three-game set at PNC Park.
McGowan is coming off a strong outing against the Royals, but he will most likely need another impressive start to secure his spot in the rotation. There has been plenty of speculation in recent days that the veteran right-hander could be headed to the bullpen.
That move was at least temporarily put on hold after McGowan surrendered just two earned runs over six innings vs. Kansas City, but manager John Gibbons certainly seems in favor of making McGowan a reliever again.
"There's no question, it's a different look down there," Gibbons said of his bullpen. "[Casey] Janssen being out and McGowan not being down there, it's a totally different look, and I think we're suffering for it.
"We've coughed up way too many this early in the season to make any progress. We definitely have to get better, and if that means adjusting some things, then that's what we need to do."
The talk of McGowan to the bullpen is only expected to increase after news broke late Saturday night that Toronto would call up No. 2 prospect Marcus Stroman prior to Sunday's game. Stroman's future appears to be in the rotation, but at least for the immediate future he will be coming out of the bullpen.
Rumors surrounding Stroman were prevalent last week, too, when McGowan was pitching for his job in Kansas City and responded accordingly. He allowed just three hits and was able to avoid becoming fatigued around the 60-pitch mark as he did in previous outings. It was just the second time this season that McGowan was able to throw more than four innings.
During that outing, McGowan for the first time pitched while wearing his insulin pump, designed to combat his diabetes and increase his stamina. The right-hander said he actually felt that he was getting stronger as the game wore on.
"It felt good," McGowan said. "I kept checking [the pump] every inning. I feel real encouraged, because I got deep into the game, which is all I've been wanting to do."
Right-hander Edinson Volquez will take the mound for the Pirates and is coming off his first rough outing of the season. Volquez turned in three straight quality starts before giving up six runs on seven hits in a 7-0 loss to the Cardinals on April 27.
Despite his 1-2 record, he has been effective, as opposing hitters have only a .230 average against him. Part of the problem for Volquez has been the level of his competition, as he has been matched up twice against St. Louis' Adam Wainwright and Milwaukee's Yovani Gallardo and once against Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto.
"I don't even think about that," Volquez said. "I just want to do my job, every five days. I don't care who I face."
Blue Jays: Navarro remains day to day
Catcher Dioner Navarro could make his return to the Blue Jays' lineup on Sunday afternoon. Navarro has been out of action since he injured his right quadriceps muscle while running the bases in Kansas City on Thursday night.
Navarro was available to pinch-hit during the first two games of the Blue Jays' series in Pittsburgh but had not been able to play defense. The injury affects Navarro the most when he is crouching behind the plate, but he appears to be improving.
"He's getting a little bit better," Gibbons said before Saturday night's game. "Hopefully in the next couple of days he'll be good. He was going to pinch-hit last night, and we were going to pinch-run for him. He was available to do that."
Pirates: Searching for wins from the rotation
Thirty games into the season, the Pirates have just three wins from their starting rotation. A Pirates starter most recently won a game back on April 17, when a Volquez-led squad defeated the Brewers, 11-2.
The lack of wins is perhaps a testament to how the Pirates expect to play this year. There will be a lot of close ballgames, meaning decisions will often go to members of the bullpen.
"Different teams have things fall different ways," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When you're built on pitching and defense, as we are, more often than not the decision falls to the bullpen, win or lose. That's a low number, no doubt about it. All they can do is go out and pitch; there's a lot things they can't control -- I encourage them not to get caught up in that."
• Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista extended his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games with a single during the fourth inning of Saturday night's game in Pittsburgh. Bautista has reached base in all 30 games this season, which is a franchise record.
• Toronto third baseman Brett Lawrie has recorded multiple hits in six consecutive games and seven of his past nine contests. He also has a team-high 21 RBIs.
• Andrew McCutchen is 19-for-43 in his past 10 Interleague games at PNC Park.