Ryan not deterred by velocity questions
Jays closer tosses one scoreless inning against Pirates on Friday
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Shortly before driving to McKechnie Field for an appearance against the Pirates on Friday, Blue Jays closer B.J. Ryan gathered a few of his things at Toronto's complex and politely declined comment about his recent issues on the mound.
It was revealed this week that the Blue Jays are a bit baffled by the significant drop in Ryan's pitch velocity, and he has been adjusting his mechanics in an attempt to find a solution. Manager Cito Gaston and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg have each expressed concern, but Ryan opted not to discuss the matter with reporters.
"I dont have anything to say -- nothing prosperous," Ryan said.
Against Pittsburgh, Ryan logged one inning that will appear relatively clean in the box score. The left-hander issued one walk, but that was the extent of the damage he allowed while on the hill. Ryan finished with 19 pitches, including 11 strikes, against Pittsburgh's Andy LaRoche, Brian Bixler, Steve Pearce and Nyjer Morgan.
More importantly, Ryan topped out at 85 mph according to a radar gun being held by a scout seated in a row situated behind home plate. More often, Ryan's fastball registered at 84 mph, representing a drop-off from his pitch speed a year ago. Arnsberg has noted that Ryan routinely hit between 86-90 mph with his pitches last season.
After Ryan's outing, Gaston focused on the end result.
"I thought he did well," said Gaston, who had yet to see Ryan's pitch readings. "I'm encouraged by it. I'm glad to see him get out of that inning, and it can't be anything but confidence for him. Like I've said about B.J., I really like him in the sense that, when he goes out there, he gives you everything he has no matter what happens. He never quits on you."
Gaston indicated prior to the game that left-hander Scott Downs might be counted on in some save opportunities in the event that Ryan's velocity issues persist.
Ryan, 34, relieved ace Roy Halladay in the eighth inning and promptly entered into a six-pitch at-bat with LaRoche. Pittsburgh's third baseman drilled the last offering to left field, but it was snared for an out. Ryan then walked Bixler, marking the closer's seventh walk in six Grapefruit League innings this spring.
The next batter, Pearce, chopped the fifth pitch he faced back to Ryan for an easy groundout. Pearce swung and missed twice at Ryan's slider during the at-bat. In all, the Pirates' hitters swung at eight of Ryan's 19 pitches and only Pearce's first two cuts did not make contact. Morgan grounded out to shortstop after just two pitches to end the inning.
From his view in the bullpen down the left-field line, Halladay was also encouraged by Ryan's performance.
"I thought he looked good," said Halladay, who allowed one run on four hits over seven impressive innings. "I think the big thing for him has been probably trying to overthrow a little bit and, when he does that, he jumps out. I've watched him throw in the 'pen. He's good. He's downhill. I think he just gets a little anxious when he gets out there."
Halladay was also quick to remind that Ryan is still less than two years removed from Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow. Ryan underwent the procedure in May 2007 and didn't return to the bullpen until last April. Ryan, who is scheduled to earn $10 million this year, finished last season with 32 saves and a 2.95 ERA in 60 games.
"He's been real good at 87, 88, 89 [mph], because he is downhill and it's deception," Halladay said. "I think if he can get that angle and just let it come -- you have major surgery like that and you work so long and then take a period off -- I think it's going to take a while to get it going. But if he can get that downhill tilt, I think that's the biggest thing for him, and probably just relax a little.
"I don't think he's frustrated. I think it's just a matter of trying to feel comfortable. I think he feels good in the bullpen and then gets out there and -- just from talking to him -- I think he feels like he's changing his mechanics a little bit. So once he gets to where he's comfortable taking the bullpen stuff out to the mound, I think that's all you're worried about."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.