That being the case, having Ryan back on the hill closing out games for Toronto in April was a feat in itself, considering he was less than a year removed from his Tommy John ligament replacement operation. Seeing the big lefty return in dominating fashion has made Ryan's comeback that much more impressive.
Minus a few bumps along the way, Ryan has enjoyed a strong campaign early on. On Monday, Toronto's stopper was recognized with the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award" for May -- a month in which Ryan stifled the opposition.
"He's been unbelievable," Toronto manager John Gibbons said last month. "Especially considering what he's coming back from."
In May, Ryan went a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities, posted a 0.75 ERA by yielding just one run over 12 innings. Over that span, the 6-foot-6 southpaw fanned 14 batters and limited hitters to a .171 batting average. Over the season's first two months, Ryan converted 12 saves in as many chances with a 0.53 ERA.
Ryan, who underwent surgery on his throwing arm on May 10 last year, rejoined Toronto's bullpen on April 13 -- only permitted to appear in games every other day. By May, Ryan was cleared to appear in consecutive games, if needed, helping to strengthen one of the game's top relief corps.
Ryan's looked more and more like the closer he was in 2006, when he had 38 saves and a 1.37 ERA in his first tour with the Jays after signing a five-year deal worth $47 million. He's shown a slight drop off in velocity this season, but Ryan has overcome that with deception and location, for the most part.
"We were excited when he got back," Jays first baseman Lyle Overbay said in May, "because he doesn't need to throw 95. He can be really effective in an 88-90 mph range. It's good to know that he's back there."
In June, Ryan suffered his first blown saves of the season in his first two outings of the month. Ryan yielded two ninth-inning runs to the Angels in a loss on June 1 and then surrendered a two-run, walk-off homer to Yankees slugger Jason Giambi in the ninth on Thursday.
Those have been the only blemishes in an otherwise impressive campaign thus far for Ryan.
"You give the ball to a guy who's going to get it done and you expect to get it done," Toronto starter A.J. Burnett said. "You give him the ball the next time and he will get it done."
The "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month Award" winner is selected by a special Major League Baseball "yellow-ribbon" panel that includes Mike Bauman, national columnist for MLB.com; Darryl Hamilton, former Major League outfielder and a member of the MLB on-Field operations staff; Jerome Holtzman, the official MLB historian and a winner of the Hall of Fame's J.G. Taylor Spink Award; and Bob Watson, vice president, on-field operations, Major League Baseball.
At the conclusion of the season, Major League Baseball fans will have the opportunity to determine which relief pitcher had the best overall season and is deserving of the fourth-annual "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award."
A list of finalists will be selected based on statistical qualifiers, and fans will be able to vote for the winner online at MLB.com, the official Web site of Major League Baseball. Last season, Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox was named the recipient of the "DHL Presents the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Year Award."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.