Ryan playing through the pain
Lefty reliever experiencing some soreness, but sees progress
BRADENTON, Fla. -- The results were clean, but B.J. Ryan wasn't entirely pleased with the latest step in his comeback attempt. After a successful one-inning outing against the Pirates on Monday, the Blue Jays' closer indicated that he was fighting soreness in his left elbow.
Ryan said the minor discomfort felt different than typical arm soreness, but added that Toronto's trainers didn't believe it was anything to be too worried about. With the left-hander coming back from major reconstructive surgery on his throwing elbow, soreness is part of the recovery process.
"There are going to be good days and bad days, and I knew that going in," Ryan said. "So you just put your work in and don't do anything stupid. You don't try to be a hero here in the middle of Spring Training, but yet now's the time -- if you're going to break with the team -- to get out there and get people out."
Ryan's appearance against Pittsburgh at McKechnie Field marked just his second Grapefruit League outing of the spring. He first pitched Friday afternoon, throwing a perfect first inning on the road against Tampa Bay. Ryan followed that up by holding the Pirates scoreless in the sixth inning on Monday.
The 32-year-old signed a five-year, $47 million deal to be Toronto's closer prior to the 2006 season. Ryan was sidelined with an elbow injury last April, and on May 10 of last year he underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on the joint. Less than a year later, Ryan's trying to come back healthy in time for Opening Day.
After his latest trip to the mound, Ryan said the plan was for him to make his next appearance on Thursday, but the pitcher added that he'd have to see how his arm bounces back in the next two days.
"As of right now, yeah," said Ryan, when asked if he'd pitch again after two days of rest. "We'll see how it feels. I felt good today, but once I got out there the ball wasn't coming out as good. But you know what, you don't [necessarily] feel good every time you go out there."
Prior to Monday's game, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said that barring any setbacks, it'd likely be another week before Ryan could pitch in games every other day. Consecutive appearances for the recovering left-hander are out of the question, in Spring Training and possibly in April.
Gibbons noted that he discussed the issue earlier this spring with reliever Jeremy Accardo, who saved 30 games for Toronto after Ryan was shelved last season. If Ryan breaks camp with the team, Accardo will receive save chances on the days that the Jays' primary closer is not available.
"I told [Accardo] in the first couple days of spring," Gibbons said, "that when we start the season, if B.J. is here, [Ryan] is not going to be going back-to-back days. 'On the days he's not, you're going to be the guy, because of what you did -- you saved us last year and did a heck of a job. We haven't forgotten that.'"
On Monday, Ryan entered in relief in the sixth inning against Pittsburgh, opening his outing with a four-pitch strikeout to Pirates catcher Ronny Paulino. Ryan then fell behind in the count, 3-2, to third baseman Jose Bautista, and opted to throw a fastball over the plate instead of risking a walk. Bautista answered with a hard hit single to left field.
"I've never gone through this," Ryan said. "You don't know what to expect, but I made some good pitches and I made some bad ones. ... I didn't want to walk [Bautista], so I threw a ball over the plate and he did what big league hitters do."
Ryan didn't throw many sliders on Monday, opting instead to stick mainly with his fastball. He then induced a groundout to second base off the bat of Luis Rivas. Two pitches later, Pirates outfielder Nyjer Morgan drilled an 0-2 pitch toward the left-center field gap, but Jays shortstop Marco Scutaro made a leaping grab to snare the baseball, ending the inning.
"You love those plays," said Ryan, referring to Scutaro's acrobatic catch. "But I hate to waste them right now in Spring Training. It was a good play."
Scutaro's play allowed Ryan to conclude his outing Monday with 17 pitches, 12 of them strikes. It was an effective outing, but the Blue Jays will be eager to learn if Ryan feels any unusual soreness over the next couple days.
"I was way better [Friday]," Ryan said. "It's my first time going through [this] and some days will be better than others. That's just the way it is in this game. You just have to deal with days like today and get out of that inning by making good pitches."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.