Inside Pitch: Ryan Making Solid Progress
B.J. Ryan

Posted Mar 17, 2008


It's looking more and more as if closer B.J. Ryan will be with the Jays on Opening Day.

Ryan, who is defying the odds by the quickness of his recovery from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery performed last May, was sharp in his first appearance in a March 14 spring training game against Tampa Bay.

Ryan, who hasn't faced major league hitters since last April 14, faced three batters. He handled a bunt by leadoff batter Elliot Johnson and struck out both Carl Crawford and Willy Aybar. Ryan threw 12 pitches, eight of them strikes.

"It was good. I was kinda coming out there anxious and nervous and not really knowing what to expect," Ryan said. "I went out there, talked to Rod (Barajas, his catcher) and said, 'Let's try to pound the ball down and throw some good, quality pitches and see what happens.' It was a good result today."

Ryan said he didn't take any baby steps. "We didn't hold anything back. I threw what he called," Ryan said. "We moved it around both sides of the plate, threw a couple of good breaking balls, couple of crummy ones, but I figured that was what was going to happen today."

The Jays are still being cautious with Ryan. Following his appearance against Tampa, he was to get two days off before his next one-inning outing.

Ryan is not expected to throw on back-to-back days during spring training, and if he starts the season with the club, he will not be used in back-to-back games at least through April, pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said.

"I don't get nerves or anything while he's out there, but here it is, a little over 10 months post-surgery, and it's amazing how far he's come," Arnsberg said. "A year ago, we were putting the guy on the shelf. Now, we're able to let him go out there and work his magic and it's real fun."

NOTES, QUOTES

--General manager J.P. Ricciardi answered the question of whom the Jays would turn to in case of an injury to one of their five starters -- Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Dustin McGowan, Shaun Marcum and Jesse Litsch. "We've got Kane Davis plus David Purcey and Josh Banks at Triple-A (Syracuse)," Ricciardi replied.

--LHP Gustavo Chacin, who was optioned to Class AAA Syracuse on March 12, will not be available to help the Jays until July at the earliest, general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. Chacin, who is recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery, needs time to build his arm strength.

--Manager John Gibbons doesn't have a contract extension beyond this season, but that doesn't necessarily mean his days are numbered. "I think Gibby will manage here a long time," GM J.P. Ricciardi said. "Gibby knows he's in good standing here. We like him a lot, the players like him, he's done a good job here."

--The Jays open the regular season with three road games against the Yankees followed by three home dates against Boston and do not want their starters pitching in any exhibition games against teams they will meet in the opening week. They don't want any sneak previews.

As a result, RHP Shaun Marcum, who will face Boston in the Jays' home opener April 4, will not face the Red Sox in his scheduled spring start; RHP Roy Halladay, the Opening Day starter against the Yankees on March 31, will skip the Yankees his next start; and RHP Dustin McGowan, slotted to face the Yankees April 3, will not face them in Florida, either. Marcum, Halladay and McGowan will instead pitch in minor league games.

--Manager John Gibbons is leaning toward not bumping his fifth starter in the opening week of the regular season despite having a day off after RHP Roy Halladay pitches the season opener vs. the Yankees on March 31. Gibbons said his fifth starter, likely RHP Jesse Litsch, probably will start against Boston on April 5, with Halladay receiving an extra day's rest and making the start on April 6.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- The number of starters with major league experience in the Jays organization who are available to join the starting rotation in case of an injury.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If he continues to progress the way he's progressed, I don't see any reason why he wouldn't." -- General manager J.P. Ricciardi, when asked if LHP B.J. Ryan could be ready by Opening Day.


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