By Shannon Drayer
When Brendan Ryan left the field during a game against the Rangers on Sept. 17 the hope was that he would be able to return by the end of the season. When the season ended he knew that he was in for a lot of work to strengthen the area to help decrease the likelihood of a recurrence. He had no idea that he wouldn't be able to throw when he arrived at spring training.
"I did not think it would be an ongoing battle," he said after practice Wednesday. "This is something that is life changing. I have to watch my posture, I have to be careful lifting weights, at night when my shoulders start to slump I have a special vest to hold them back."
No, it is about maintenance now. The neck, along with upper back and shoulder issues, will improve but there are no guarantees that they will not recur. Ryan has had to adapt a routine that he will need to keep up if he wants to be on the field.
"I don't think I can just roll out of bed and just throw the leather around anymore," he said.
Ryan is now on a pitcher's throwing program to help get him back out on the field at shortstop. He threw for five minutes from 50 feet away Thursday and hopes to do the same Friday. If he is able to throw through the weekend the trainers will reassess where he is and move forward. The required discipline is not fun for a player like Ryan, who I would definitely call a worker but less of a routine guy. It is necessary, however.
"I will be on top of it," Ryan assured me. "It is what it is. I am working hard and will do what I have to because I don't want any setbacks."
Aside from the health issues Ryan is happy to be in camp and excited to get the season going. Last season was an eye-opener for him. While he would like to put up better offensive numbers he learned there were other ways he could contribute. Coming from the St. Louis Cardinals, where he was the young guy in the clubhouse, he was honored that Eric Wedge saw this and asked him for leadership.
"It's something that is very special to me," he said of being asked to be more vocal with the team.
"It shows he has a lot of respect for me. It's something I don't want to take for granted. I want to make him proud. As weird as that may sound but not everybody gets this opportunity so I want to do everything and then some with it. I want to be here for a long long time. Hopefully putting up some good numbers will help that."
News and notes: The first intersquad game will be Friday with Jason Vargas and Danny Hultzen getting the starts. Also scheduled to pitch are Shawn Camp, Oliver Perez, Aaron Heilman, Steve Delabar, Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Shawn Kelley, Hong-Chih Kuo, Cesar Jimenez, Erasmo Ramirez and Lucas Luetge. ...A couple of bumps and bruises Thursday as Trayvon Robinson and Franklin Gutierrez were held back a bit from drills with sore legs. ...I asked Miguel Olivo if anyone he caught this week stood out to him and his eyes got wide as he answered, "Taijuan Walker. Felt like he was throwing 97 and he had one of the best breaking balls I have seen and he is only 19?" ...Today was the first day of the commercial shoots. The star of today's shoot? Justin Smoak. ...Quote of the day, on Olivo and Smoak colliding on an infield drill this morning: "Smoakie and Miggy knocked heads today but if you are going to have two guys knock heads they are probably the right two to have it happen to," Wedge chuckled.