There were two plays in last night’s fifth inning — the one when the Orioles scored most of their runs and took control for a while — that Eduardo Nunez couldn’t quite make. Both were far from routine, in fact, both were pretty difficult. But I do wonder if Brendan Ryan might have made at least one of them.
Ryan is widely considered one of best defensive players in baseball, which is why he’s kept a big league job without hitting a bit since a standout 2009 in St. Louis. The Yankees didn’t get him for his bat. They got him because Derek Jeter’s still hurt, the team is short at shortstop, and Ryan does one thing extremely well.
Those two plays Nunez couldn’t make last night were a ball in the hole — he got to it, but didn’t have time to throw out J.J. Hardy — and a slow roller that got past Alex Rodriguez, leaving Nunez very little time to scoop and fling to first. His throw was too wide for Mark Reynolds to catch with his foot on the bag, and so it went for a costly throwing error. Not horrible plays either time, but not great plays. And despite the fact Nunez seems to have made progress on defense, he’s certainly no standout in the field. The Yankees now have a truly elite defensive option at a truly elite defensive position.
But the Ryan acquisition also begs obvious questions about the status of Jeter. He’s gone three days without baseball activities, and there’s certainly no indication that he’s going to play today, or even the next day. Joe Girardi has acknowledged that Jeter should be considered day-to-day the rest of the year. I think it’s also worth acknowledging that his range should be considered even more limited than before.
“I just think it’s complicated with the foot, as you’ve seen,” Brian Cashman said. “We hope at some point it will hopefully be forgotten, but right now it’s something that he’s still dealing with. … The bottom line is, his mobility was definitely becoming more limited with the pain he was receiving so we backed off, and when he’s feeling better, we’ll turn him loose again.”
No one, though, seems to know when that day will be. And so Ryan is on his way, a terrific glove at a position that has become — once again — short-handed.
Associated Press photo