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Ryan aiming to return in mid-April

Ryan aiming to return in mid-April

SARASOTA, Fla. -- B.J. Ryan's return to Toronto officially has been put on hold. On Monday, the Blue Jays announced what had become glaringly obvious, revealing that their recovering closer will not be on the club's Opening Day roster.

Ryan enjoyed another successful bullpen session on Monday morning, but there's simply not enough time remaining on the spring slate for the left-hander to be ready for a regular work load. Barring any setbacks, the Blue Jays are hoping Ryan will be able to rejoin the team's bullpen by mid-April.

"He's not going to go north with us," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "We're just going to back him off a little bit, and I'd say, best-case scenario, [he'll return in the] middle of April. Once again, we'll know as he continues to make strides, and I don't want to put a date on it, because I think that's unfair to the player and it's unfair to us."

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Ryan, who underwent Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his left elbow last May, was hoping to meet his personal goal of breaking camp with the club in time for Opening Day. After his last Grapefruit League outing on March 17, though, Ryan felt some tightness in his left forearm, and Toronto opted not to have him appear in any additional spring games.

The discomfort, which the Jays indicate is unrelated to Ryan's surgery, hasn't presented an ongoing issue in subsequent bullpen sessions or throwing activities for the pitcher. Still, Toronto doesn't want to risk further injuring Ryan, especially considering he's still less than a year removed from the reconstructive operation.

"We're going to make sure we do it right," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "One thing is the organization wants him around a few years. We want him, once he gets there, where there's no looking back. Now, it's going to take a little longer, but so what? So be it."

With Ryan temporarily out of the equation, the Blue Jays will move right-hander Jeremy Accardo into the closer role. Last year, Accardo saved 30 games after Ryan was sidelined in April. Gibbons also noted that left-hander Scott Downs would serve as the club's primary setup man, facing both left-handed and right-handed batters.

Gibbons said he fully believed Ryan -- signed to a five-year, $47 million deal prior to the 2006 season -- had a realistic shot at being with the team on Opening Day.

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"That might've been a bit optimistic, but all signs indicated [that he could do it]," Gibbons said. "We also knew that if he had any setbacks at all, it'd be awfully tough, because of the timeframe and his schedule to get on the mound down here. That's what happened."

Gibbons said the Blue Jays don't need to wait until Ryan can pitch on consecutive days to add him to the bullpen. Toronto's manager said the club would be comfortable inserting Ryan back into his ninth-inning role if the pitcher was able to appear every other day. This spring, Ryan's schedule has included two days of rest between mound work.

"If he's out there pitching in that crucial situation," Gibbons said, "you want him to have enough pitches under his belt where he can get [his pitch count] up there in the mid 20s and we're not worried about it."

The absence of Ryan, along with right-hander Casey Janssen (out for the season with a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder), opens up a pair of spots in Toronto's bullpen. Accardo, Downs, Brian Tallet and Jason Frasor are locked in with jobs, while Brandon League and Brian Wolfe are leading candidates for the other roles.

Toronto still is weighing its options, though.

Earlier this week, Ricciardi hinted that Rule 5 Draft pick Randy Wells might have won a job this spring. Without the left-handed Ryan in the 'pen, however, the Jays may consider carrying another lefty. Left-hander Jesse Carlson pitched the first inning against the Reds on Monday so the Jays' brass could watch him take on some of Cincinnati's top hitters.

"We're gong to take the team that we think is the best," Gibbons said. "With Ryan being out, we've got to be as strong as we can. Not only Ryan, but Janssen. If Janssen's around, we may look at things different. We need to have a guy who we think can contribute, too. We like Carlson."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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