If last night’s performance is any indication of Ryan’s readiness – he’s ready. Thursday night, Brendan Ryan began the next phase of his rehab assignment in the Cardinals Double A affiliate, the Springfield Cardinals. Leading off and playing short, Ryan set the table for a 20 – 5 barn-storming of the visiting Tulsa Drillers at Hammon’s Field.
In his first at bat, the scrappy young infielder lifted a pitch into short left field. From there, it was all fun and games. Ryan finished the night going 4 for 6 with a double, a solo HR, and a stolen base. He did have one strikeout on the night, but let’s be fair – every pitch thrown to Ryan in that at bat was 100 mph or higher (that pitcher, by the way, topped out at 103 mph!). Rather than risk reinjuring a healing rib section trying to catch up to such an offering, Ryan wisely stayed out of the way of the slightly wild right-hander and calmly watched the pitches zoom by.
Defensively, he looked good – even great, at times. His range looked fine and he seemed to be moving to balls without hesitation, which is a good sign with a rib injury. On two occasions, Ryan could have clearly stretched out for a ball up the middle but thought better of it – no doubt employing wisdom in a runaway game – choosing not to risk his ailing ribs.
Overall – Brendan Ryan looked great and was clearly the main attraction. Before the game, he stopped more than once to sign autographs with adults and kids, always sparing a moment to speak to the fans. When I caught up with him and cornered him with my son’s baseball, I asked him how his ribs were feeling. “They’re a little tight, but they’re okay.” I followed with, “I hate to see you get injured, but it’s sure good to see you down here.” He responded (laughing a bit): “Well, I was always hurt here, so it kind of fits.”
A Quick Note on Bryan Anderson: The young Springfield catcher can sure swing the bat – no question. In fact, he proved that by driving a ball over the wall near the visitor’s bullpen in the fifth inning, quickly earning all fans in attendance an Andy’s Frozen Custard concrete for only a buck. But I see now what the organization means when they say he needs to work on his defense. He has the talent and the skills – but he just needs to work on his habits and overcoming his instincts. When he blocks balls in the dirt, he’s having a hard time overcoming his instinct to catch the ball in his mitt rather than blocking it with his body. The result is a lot of past balls because he keeps wanting to pull his body up a bit when the ball bounces. We’ll see…I certainly think it’s something that can be taught…and with Yadi in the Bigs, the organization can easily afford to give him all the time he needs.
Well…that’s all for now…GO CARDS!!!