After pitching off a mound for the first time in almost a year, Dustin McGowan was asked how realistic it would be for him to break camp with the Blue Jays later this month and travel to Toronto for opening day.

The affable right-hander, whose once-promising career has been derailed by injury after injury, exhaled loudly.

“That’s a good question,” he said. “Now going into a reliever role I don’t have to have a big buildup. I think it’s more realistic that way. Just hope the recovery goes fine and I think I’ll be all right.”

Jays manager John Gibbons startled reporters on Sunday by saying McGowan remained in the mix for the club’s long relief role, joining an already crowded bullpen competition.

“It’s a long shot thing,” Gibbons said. “But he’s out of options so if he’s healthy he’s a guy that could help us.”

McGowan threw 20 pitches in the late-morning bullpen session at about 85 per cent effort, saying he felt better than he thought he would. “For not throwing off a mound in a year I thought it was really good.”

How he feels Wednesday and Thursday will determine the next steps.

Jays’ pitching coach Pete Walker said he was encouraged by McGowan’s session, but doesn’t want expectations to get too high. “It was only one side, so it’s tough to get too fired up.”