Brendan Ryan came off the disabled list four days ago and is just now getting his first start of the season. It could be at least another four days before he gets another turn in the starting lineup. It can’t possibly come as a surprise, which begs the question: Why would a veteran shortstop, who presumably would like to be an everyday player again, sign with a team that has Derek Jeter on its roster?
“Good question,” Ryan said, with a bit of a laugh. “Because there was obviously the you-never-know factor, but looking at the field there’s not a lot of open shortstop jobs out there, and I was really impressed with what I saw last year. Getting traded over here and the way things were done, I found it extremely refreshing to be a part of a winning environment again. That’s something that I missed since St. Louis. Not to take a shot at Seattle or anything, but it’s a lot more fun waking up in the morning when you feel like you’re playing for something as a group. I got a taste of it in ’09 when we got swept by the Dodgers in the divisional series, but I just want to get back to that. I want to be a part of that environment again. Those things weighed in for sure.”
Now 32 years old, Ryan took a two-year deal — with a player option for a third — to rejoin the Yankees as a bench player backing up the most iconic shortstop in franchise history. He’s not surprised by the lack of playing time, nor does he seem particularly bothered by it. He takes it as an honor to serve as the backup for Jeter’s final season.
“It’s something I couldn’t have probably ever dreamed of,” he said. “I don’t want to make too much of it, because I just want to focus on playing baseball. I’m sure I’ll realize how cool it was more accurately after it’s over.”
But Ryan indisputably brings something to the table that Jeter simply doesn’t: one of the best shortstop gloves in baseball. Some of those metrics are obviously going to fluctuate from year to year — advanced stats actually didn’t have Ryan as an overwhelming defensive player last year — but ultimately Ryan has scratched out a big league career based entirely on his ability to field. In 2012 he hit .194, and FanGraphs still had him as a 1.4 WAR (Baseball Reference had him at 3.4 WAR that season). Ryan said he doesn’t spend a ton of time looking at advanced fielding metrics, but he realizes that they’ve helped his career.
“I hear some things and it’s mostly from media or my brother will try to boost my ego a little bit with making me feel good about my numbers,” he said. “I know it’s good for me because all the offensive stuff is out there. For a guy that’s defensively oriented, I think it only helps my case showing that I can have a positive impact on a Major League Baseball game.”
Ryan was asked if the Yankees had approached him about the possibility of being a defensive replacement, and if so, would that be awkward? Ryan said he hadn’t heard anything about being used that way. As for being awkward, well…
“It would probably be awkward,” Ryan said. “Because, well, I don’t need to say why.”
• Joe Girardi said he realizes some fans might have bought tickets tonight specifically wanting to see Jeter, but with a day game tomorrow — and with games 10 days in a row — Jeter was going to get one of these two games off. Just happens to be today. “I’m in a no-win situation,” Girardi said. “I have to do what’s best for the team and what’s best for the player. And I understand people want to see him. I want to see him. It’s a difficult situation, because I’m sure people bought tickets for tonight. For that, I’m sorry if the bought tickets just to come see Derek. But CC is pitching. I know they love CC! But It’s a tough situation because I have to manage what’s best for everyone.”
• As usual, Jeter tried to talk his way into the lineup. “I don’t have very many days off,” Jeter said. “I don’t like them, that’s the bottom line, but I get it. Sometimes (I feel the benefit).”
• Girardi said he’s planning to rest Brian Roberts tomorrow. Didn’t want to sit Jeter and Roberts on the same day.
• Shawn Kelley said back feels significantly better today. He’ll get more treatment and might play catch. It sounds unlikely that Girardi will use him, but both Kelley and Girardi sounded encouraged today. “We’re still kind of day-to-day,” Kelley said. “I feel a lot better. Each day’s gotten better.”
• Girardi said he does consider Adam Warren to be available tonight. Warren’s pitch count was actually really low last night.
• CC Sabathia gets the start tonight. “I’ve said all along I thought he was throwing the ball better than last year,” Girardi said. “I think his sinker has been better. I think his changeup has been better. It’s just been a few innings here and there. He needs to figure out a way to stop those innings and when he does, he’ll get on a roll.”
• It would seem to make sense to play Ryan behind Sabathia, but Girardi said that wasn’t a significant factor in giving Jeter a day off today. Sounds like it was more about Jeter have good career numbers against Matt Garza (tomorrow’s Brewers starter) and Roberts having terrible numbers against Garza. Didn’t want to sit both of those guys on the same day, so it made more sense to do it this way.
• The Brewers are planning a pregame ceremony for Jeter tomorrow. Girardi said that was also a non-factor in when Jeter sat.
Associated Press photos