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McGowan excels in final spring tune-up

McGowan looks forward to April

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DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Blue Jays starter Dustin McGowan completed his final tune-up start for the regular season, spinning seven solid innings against the Houston Astros at Knology Park on Thursday afternoon.

McGowan's next outing is scheduled to come on April 3, when the Blue Jays will face the Yankees in the final tilt of a three-game season-opening series at Yankee Stadium. McGowan immediately smiled at the thought of taking on New York for his first start of the 2008 season.

"I'm going to have to control my emotions first of all," McGowan said. "The adrenaline is going to be pumping and it's going to be exciting. It's going to test us early and we'll see what we're made of right out of the shoot."

Against Houston, McGowan turned in five shutout innings before the Astros finally broke through in the sixth. In all, the 26-year-old right-hander surrendered three runs on four hits with four strikeouts and four walks over the seven frames. For the spring, he finished 2-0 with a 5.06 ERA in Grapefruit League play.

"Overall, it was OK," said McGowan, assessing his spring. "It seemed like I never got to pitch up here -- one home start. But I made it through healthy and everything feels good. That's the key."

McGowan will be an integral part of Toronto's rotation this season, serving as the club's No. 3 starter after a breakout campaign in 2007. Last year, McGowan went 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA in 27 starts after joing the starting staff in May.

McGowan worked extensively on his four-seam fastball this spring, though he focused more on his two-seam sinker in the outing against the Astros. Toronto manager John Gibbons said he was pleased with the progression McGowan had made with his changeup, which could serve as a good weapon for the power pitcher.

"You look at him, he's got as good of an arm as anybody out there," Gibbons said. "He's got the breaking ball -- he's got everything going for him. Now he just has to go out there and do it again."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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