Ryan, Jays differ over his workload

Ryan, Jays differ over his workload

NEW YORK -- B.J. Ryan is caught in a vicious cycle. The Blue Jays left-hander feels he needs frequent work to regain a good rhythm on the mound, but Ryan's persistent struggles have forced manager Cito Gaston to use him sparingly.

On Sunday afternoon, Ryan made only his second appearance for Toronto in an eight-day span, and he labored once again in a 10-8 loss to New York. Ryan knows the only way to convince Gaston to use him more is by performing well, but the southpaw said that's becoming a difficult task due to his light workload these days.

"It's frustrating," Ryan said on Monday morning. "It's frustrating when you sit and you wait to pitch, and you get in there and you don't do good. It's tough. You kind of find yourself in that same circle. You sit for four or five days and you get out there and you want to make pitches and you don't.

"It's tough when you don't get consistent work to go out there and be sharp, but you can't use that as an excuse. You work in the bullpen and you try to get your work done and you try to get mechanically right, and it's about going out there and making pitches.

"If you don't, then you probably won't pitch again for a while."

Over his past seven appearances, dating back to June 16, Ryan has posted an 8.31 ERA, with eight walks and five hits allowed over 4 1/3 innings. Two of those hits have been home runs, including a game-deciding two-run shot off the bat of New York's Derek Jeter in the fifth inning on Sunday.

On the season, the 33-year-old former closer has walked 17 over 20 2/3 innings, with a 6.53 ERA over 25 games. Command issues and concerns about Ryan's diminished velocity contributed to him losing his job as the closer to Scott Downs early in the season. Lately, Gaston has reached a point where he's struggling to find the right time to use Ryan.

Following Sunday's showing, Gaston said he may have to consider reserving Ryan for blowouts.

"It's just hard to find those spots to put him in there right now," Gaston said. "It's been hard to find spots for him to pitch in sometimes, but all we can do is do what we're doing and hope that he can get his way back in there someway and pitch like he did last year for us."

Ryan, who recorded 32 saves in 60 games for the Blue Jays a year ago, said his situation has been made tougher by the fact that it seems his manager has less confidence in him than he does in himself.

"Absolutely -- 100 percent," Ryan said. "That's universal throughout all of baseball."

Prior to the 2006 season, the Jays inked Ryan to a five-year contract worth $47 million, representing the largest deal in history for a reliever at that point in time. Ryan answered with a dominant showing that year, posting a 1.37 ERA with 38 saves and an All-Star appearance. Ryan missed most of the '07 season after having left elbow surgery, and he's been trying to regain his previous form since.

Now, Ryan has reached a stage where he is starting to realize he might need to evolve as a pitcher.

"I didn't think I had to, but it's really starting to look that way," Ryan said. "It's tough. It's a high-maintenance delivery and it's always worked for me, because I've always got a lot of appearances and I worked a lot during the week. You're up in the 'pen or in the game and it was a big workload. Now, it's spread out, so it's different, so you do have to make some adjustments."

That includes trying to mix up his fastball and slider more -- possibly featuring them in different counts than in the past.

"I've always kind of been that guy to throw anything in any count," Ryan said. "I've never been a huge velocity guy, but it is down and you'd like to know why, but you don't. So you do have to be a little smarter. You have to make a little bit better pitches and try not to make mistakes like I did [on Sunday]."

Five of Ryan's past seven appearances have consisted of less than an inning of game action for the left-hander. Asked if being used for only a handful of batters has added to his frustration level, Ryan managed a slight laugh.

"You think?" Ryan shot back. "Yeah, it's frustrating. It's frustrating not getting out there and not doing anything really. You're facing a guy here and a guy there, but you've got to pitch better. You've got to make the decision tougher on them to keep you in the game."

Ryan -- under contract for $10 million in 2010 -- said he's talked about the situation with Gaston, but the pitcher knows it's ultimately up to him to regain the manager's confidence.

"We've talked," Ryan said. "All you can do is go out there and perform. Everything is going to be based directly on performance. You go from there."

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