Sooner or later, it had to come to this. It’s time for the Blue Jays to find out about Dustin McGowan and time for McGowan to find out about himself.

After nearly five years of false starts and dashed hopes, McGowan pitched off a mound Tuesday for the first time in nearly a year. It was just 20 pitches — 18 fastballs and a couple of changeups — but it marks not just another beginning.

It has the look and feel of a moment of truth.

“We want to see a mindset of ‘let’s go, compete,’ ” manager John Gibbons said. “I’m sure he’s tired of being on the DL. Let’s push it and go for it.

“I want him to have the mindset that he’s here to make this team, that he’s still got a career left. Sometimes you get caught in a rut where all you know is the DL. We still like him, he’s part of it. He’s not a forgotten guy. There’s still a lot in there.”

That said, Gibbons knows it’s a long shot for McGowan to make the opening day roster as the long man in the bullpen. If he’s healthy, yet still not ready for the bigtime, they would risk losing him because he is out of options and would need to clear waivers if they wanted him to go to Buffalo.

Given his health history and the guaranteed money he is owed ($3.5 million over the next two years), it’s questionable if many teams would want to take a chance on McGowan but, then again, who knows? A lot of baseball people also have vivid memories of a guy who had electric stuff.

Whatever the outcome, McGowan is excited and ready to get to the bottom line.

“It was different,” said McGowan, who has been restricted to throwing on flat ground until yesterday.

“I was a little nervous going up there (on a mound) to throw but once you start throwing, it’s like you’ve been doing it your whole life, like riding a bike again. Probably throwing a good 85%. I went after it a little bit. Got to kind of do it just to see how you’re going to recover.”