Brendan Ryan was finally on the Yankees bench last night. He hurt his back in spring training, getting healthy took much longer than he expected, and the Yankees spent the season’s first month-plus playing with a couple of backup shortstops who’d never played in the big leagues before this season. Ryan hasn’t hit much in his career, but he’s known as one of the best defensive infielders in the game. Which is something the Yankees could certainly use.
If only we knew how Joe Girardi plans to use him.
For example, would Girardi be willing to pull Derek Jeter to take advantage of Ryan’s glove in the late innings?
“I haven’t really tossed that around yet because he hasn’t been here,” Girardi said on Monday. “But I’ll look at everything, where I might (use him), if I’ll play him at second or I’ll play him at third for a day? I’ll look at everything when he gets here. You’ve got to see how he’s doing, too.”
Girardi said basically the exact same thing on Tuesday, that he hadn’t come up with a definite plan for using Ryan’s one standout ability. Last night, there was no late-inning swap, but it’s surely an idea that’s crawling through Girardi’s head, and even if Girardi isn’t willing to say much about that idea, he’ll make his feelings known through his actions.
How often will Ryan play and against whom? In a tight game, will Ryan become a regular on the left side of the infield (presumably at shortstop, but I suppose he could be an upgrade at third base as well)? Could Ryan exceed offensive expectations and basically force more playing time the way Ichiro Suzuki has done? It does seem telling that the Yankees did not have Ryan play any position other than shortstop during his minor league rehab assignment.
“I’d be pretty comfortable, I’d say, (at second and third),” Ryan said. “It always takes a few game reps, but I’m always pretty confident with the glove. I’ll mess around in BP over there and get some live looks off the BP hacks. … We asked about it (during the rehab assignment). They wanted me at short. I took some grounders at second. I don’t know if I took many at third, but I’ve been there before, so it won’t be the first time and hopefully it won’t be the last. We’ll see.”
Ryan was never expected to be an everyday player, and he’s not showing up to be that kind of player. But it will be interesting to see if Girardi uses him as more than just Jeter’s backup.
“I could,” Girardi said. “But that’s his first and foremost, his No. 1 job.”
Associated Press photo