JUPITER, Fla. -- Brendan Ryan is itching to get to work, so the Cardinals are finding ways to keep their shortstop busy.
Ryan, recovering from recent right wrist surgery, still can't throw a ball normally or swing a bat with both hands. He's doing just about everything but those two activities, though, so he's staying active and keeping in shape.
It's important that Ryan remain active in order to be as ready as possible when his wrist heals. But it's also important that he not get lazy or distracted during his rehab. Ryan's focus was long a concern of the club's, though he seemed to do a lot of growing up in 2009. It would not behoove him to take a step backward.
"There's definitely guys on your heels, and I don't want to crack the door at all," Ryan said. "I worked really hard this offseason with [Mark McGwire] and Skip [Schumaker]. I can't put two hands on the bat yet, so I'm doing my one-handed drills in the cage every day. My left hand is still good, so I can take ground balls. It's just, I'm not throwing, and I'm not hitting with two hands. So I'm doing everything I can possibly do."
Ryan explained that he does drills where he swings a fungo bat with his left hand, swinging down at a ball that's placed on a tee. It's a valuable drill for Ryan, who is working hard to maintain a downward swing path, one that gets a great deal of backspin on the ball.
He's also doing extensive work in the infield, fielding balls in sessions he calls "conditioning ground balls." And he's doing light throwing, tossing a ball at a downward angle into a trampoline.
Those are exactly the sorts of things manager Tony La Russa likes to hear.
"His legs feel good and he's moving," La Russa said. "I'm sure he's bored, frustrated. That's part of being hurt.
"He's not in a position where he can afford to lose points. That's been mentioned to him. Plus, for his own good, he needs to keep it going so he doesn't have as far to go [when he returns]."
Ryan and the club both remain cagey about a timetable for his return, but Ryan is optimistic that he will be able to play on Opening Day, April 5, in Cincinnati.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.