TAMPA, Fla. -- Yankees shortstop Brendan Ryan had to be helped off the field in the sixth inning of Wednesday's Grapefruit League game against the Rays with a right calf strain, and he is likely to begin the season on the disabled list.
Manager Joe Girardi said that Ryan will have an MRI performed to determine the severity of the injury, but said that he would be "very surprised" if Ryan is ready to play by Opening Day. The injury will force the Yankees to scramble and identify a replacement infielder before April 6.
"Things can happen quick," Girardi said. "I think a lot of clubs hold their breath this time of year, [hoping] that you leave camp the way you are. Sometimes it doesn't happen and you've got to deal with it."
In response, the Yankees scratched Stephen Drew from Thursday's travel roster against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. Drew will instead remain behind at George M. Steinbrenner Field to take his first spring reps at shortstop against the Pirates.
"Switching back over there, I don't think it's that big a deal because I played it for so long," Drew said. "You've just got to get back into the groove. It's just like at second right now; you get an idea and get your reads down. I think that'd be the biggest thing, just taking some balls over there in case anything happens."
That strongly indicates the Yankees are considering using Drew as Didi Gregorius' backup to begin the season, and on Wednesday they acquired infielder Gregorio Petit from the Astros for a player to be named or cash. They could also carry a second baseman in Ryan's place -- perhaps Rob Refsnyder, who is ranked as the club's No. 5 prospect by MLB.com.
If Jose Pirela were healthy, Girardi said that he likely would have had the inside track, but Pirela has not resumed baseball activities after sustaining a concussion on March 22. Pirela said that he could begin swinging a bat on Thursday, but he has been limited to riding an exercise bike.
According to Drew, Ryan barked "some vulgar words" in pain before he attempted to snag a Kevin Kiermaier chopper up the middle, which glanced off Ryan's right hand as two runs scored on an error.
That suggests the injury occurred as Ryan was scrambling to get to the ball. He was attended to on the field by head athletic trainer Steve Donohue and Girardi, who carried Ryan through the dugout at one point as he limped to the clubhouse.
"What happens is, your depth is tested," Girardi said. "We've got to talk about it. You understand going in that these things can happen and you've got to deal with it. I think that's why they try to go out and acquire as many good players as they can."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.