GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers signed Dustin McGowan to a major league contract on Monday, but that doesn't necessarily mean he is a lock for the opening day roster. McGowan will definitely be a part of the mix for a bullpen role, a role he prefers.
"As a starter you have to pace yourself a little bit, you can't really go full throttle," McGowan said. "As a reliever you come in for one inning and let it go."
McGowan was mostly a starter in his career, which saw three full seasons wiped out with shoulder injuries (2009, 2010 and 2012). When he returned to the Blue Jays in 2013 he pitched in relief, with all 25 appearances out of the bullpen.
His first eight outings of 2014 were starts, but after a 5.08 ERA and averaging under five innings per start it was back to the bullpen.
"I gave it a shot last year one more time, and it didn't work out. After going through all the surgeries, I was having a hard time recovering," McGowan recalled. "The first few starts weren't too bad, I could recover a day or two in. After the fifth and sixth, it started getting pushed back a day for recovery even more. By the last start, it was pitch, then recover all the way up to the next start."
McGowan put up a 3.35 ERA in relief for the Jays, saw his strikeout rate jump from 14 percent to 20.5 percent, and had a 2-mph increase on both his four-seam fastball and his sinker pitching out of the bullpen.
"He's another guy with high upside as a reliever, still has power stuff," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's a guy who creates competition in camp and gives us another option."
McGowan is a low-risk signing, with a base salary of $507,500, the major league minimum, plus a $1 million roster bonus if he makes the active roster, per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN. McGowan also has up to $1.5 million in performance incentives.
Should the Dodgers decide to cut McGowan on or before March 20, they would owe him 30 days termination pay, or approximately $83,197. If they cut him after March 20 but before opening day, McGowan would receive 45 days termination pay, or $124,795.
Last year the Dodgers went into the year with six relief pitchers on guaranteed contracts, with relatively set roles. In 2015, Mattingly is more open-minded.
"Last year, there was a little more of a pecking order obviously. You had more established guys. It’s always kind of where you may think you have them slotted at that point. Last year was a little bit more clear-cut we thought, what it was going to look like. That kind of changed," Mattingly explained. "At this point, we’ve got a lot of new arms, new faces. Let’s get a chance to know them, get a chance to watch them instead of trying to evaluate now and give you things we think now let’s watch them a little while and let it work itself out.
"We haven’t set a pecking order."
McGowan enters spring training trying to win a job.
"You always have to have that mentality," McGowan said. "There are very few players that have it given to them. You have to earn it."