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Jays could begin season without Ryan as closer

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TSN.ca Staff
3/27/2009 1:44:18 PM
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Closer B.J. Ryan might not be with the Toronto Blue Jays when they head north for the start of the regular season.

Multiple media outlets reported this week the team is concerned over the left-handers loss of velocity this spring. The veteran has been throwing in the mid-80's, down from the high-to-low 90's he was regularly at in 2008.

Ryan missed most of the 2007 season after having Tommy John surgery, but had a solid campaign in 2008. The 33-year-old was 2-4 with 32 saves and a 2.95 ERA over 58 innings last season.

Both Ryan and the club are mystified at the drop, especially because the closer says he feels fine physically.

"I know he'd like to see his velocity up, especially as healthy as he feels," pitching coach Brad Arnsberg told reporters. "We're searching for answers. We're trying a little bit of everything. I've watched film on him. It's just a little bit of an oddity right now."

"The word from my bullpen coach [Bruce Walton] is he throws harder down in the bullpen," manager Cito Gaston said. "When he comes out, he tries so hard he may be tightening up."

Arnsberg feels some of the drop can be attributed to just pitching during the spring exhibition games.

"It's just a little bit of an anomaly to me that his velocity is down," said Arnsberg. "When you're talking six or seven mph, it's a little bit different than three or four. When the lights come on (and the regular season starts), you know they're going to get those three or four back (on adrenaline).

The good thing we have going for us is B.J.'s very healthy. He's strong as a bull and we just have to keep putting our nose to the grindstone."

The club could leave Ryan in Florida when they leave to begin the regular season in the hopes that he will regain his form, but Gatson does not think they will place him on the DL.

"I don't think that's going to happen," Gaston told reporters. "He's not hurt, so there's no sense in putting him on the DL."

The Jays have several options at closer if Ryan is not able to start the season. Left-hander Scott Downs or right-handers Jeremy Accardo and Jason Frasor could potentially fill the role.

Accardo filled in for Ryan as closer during the 2007 season compiling a 4-4 record with 30 saves and a 2.14 ERA.

B.J. Ryan (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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