B.J. Ryan: Huge Concern or No Big Deal?

Adam GreuelSenior Analyst IMarch 27, 2009

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 25 :  Pitcher B. J. Ryan of the Toronto Blue Jays throws in relief against he New York Yankees February 25, 2009 at Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

A lot of Toronto Blue Jays fans are asking the same question these days: What is up with B.J. Ryan and his steadily declining velocity?

Just two years removed from having undergone Tommy John Surgery (elbow ligament replacement surgery), Ryan is apparently healthy, and his declining velocity is a mystery even to him and pitching coach Brad Arnsberg.

Never a flame thrower, Ryan consistently hit 90-92 MPH before having the surgery, and hit 88-89 MPH after being a year removed from when he had the surgery. However, Ryan has been hitting just 84-85 MPH this entire spring, raising red flags in Jays camp.

Ryan has never really relied on blowing his fastball by hitters, instead using a deceptive delivery and good location on his pitches to get hitters out. However, he will definitely get rocked with such low velocity, no matter how deceptive his delivery is.

Ryan realized something was wrong early on in Spring Training when he declined America's World Baseball Classic invitation, citing that he needed to remain in Jays camp to get some innings in and for him to be able to work on a few things.

Although Ryan had a nice shutout inning today, his Spring Training stats do not look good. In seven spring appearances, he has allowed six runs on six hits and one home run.

Now, the question is, what should the Jays do?

If he does not improve quickly, do they really want Ryan closing games for them?

I, for one, hope not. While the loss of Ryan would be a big blow to the bullpen, maybe starting the season with him on the disabled list would be best, at least until he solves his problems.

If anyone has the pitchers to absorb such a big loss, it's the Jays. The league's best bullpen in 2008 still has plenty of good arms to be as good as last year.

Scott Downs, Jesse Carlson, Brian Tallet, Jeremy Accardo, and Brandon League are all talented pitchers and all of them can fill in any role the Jays need them for.

Being a Jays fan, I wish Ryan all the best in rediscovering his lost velocity, but, until then, don't even think about going into a game when April 6 comes around!