"He's not a complainer," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "You never see him in the trainer's room. So, when he says something, it just alerts you a little more."
On Sunday, Toronto placed Ryan on the 15-day disabled list and then on a plane headed for Birmingham, Ala., where the pitcher will meet with renowned orthopaedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews on Monday. Ryan will undergo an MRI exam on his arm and Andrews will help determine the extent of the injury, which is currently being described as an "strained elbow."
Ricciardi said that Ryan first felt some pain in his throwing arm during the season's opening week when Toronto was in Detroit. At the time, the Jays didn't believe the injury was of any overwhelming concern, but the club continued to monitor how the closer felt. The issue became worse over the past week.
It wasn't until Saturday, when Ryan blew his second save of the year in a loss to the Tigers, that the Blue Jays finally decided a second opinion was necessary. In that outing, the two-time All-Star issued three consecutive walks and gave up four runs in two-thirds of an inning. For the year, Ryan is 0-2 with a 12.46 ERA with three saves in five opportunities.
"I know one thing: He doesn't walk guys," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "This way, it eases his mind and eases our minds. We'll find out what's in there."
The initial tests performed on Ryan's arm by Toronto's medical staff didn't indicate any structural damage, according to Ricciardi. Still, the Jays' GM said he couldn't rule out the possibility that the left-hander might have to undergo Tommy John elbow-ligament replacement surgery -- an operation that would effectively end Ryan's season.
"I prepare myself for the worst. I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't," Ricciardi said. "But I don't think that's the case. The preliminary [tests said] it's not that, but if it is, then what are we going to do? Call the league up and say we don't want to play anymore?
"When you lose a guy like that, it puts you behind the eight ball," he added. "But I also think, if he's not right, it's not helping us either. So we have to get him right and see where it goes from there."
During Spring Training, Ryan was only able to pitch in four innings in Grapefruit League play because a back injury sidelined him for roughly three weeks. Ricciardi and Gibbons both said that the elbow injury and Ryan's health woes during the preseason are unrelated.
The Blue Jays inked the 31-year-old Ryan to a five-year deal worth $47 million in November 2005. Last season, the southpaw posted a 1.37 ERA and recorded 38 saves in his first campaign with Toronto. Only Duane Ward (45 saves in 1993) tallied more saves in a single season in club history.
Ryan was also named to the American League All-Star team for a second straight year in 2006. In his first full season as a closer in '05, Ryan saved 36 games for the Orioles. This is Ryan's first trip to the disabled list in nine big-league seasons.
"He's one of the premier closers in baseball," Gibbons said. "You look around baseball over the years, the teams that have struggled in that role have had a tough time. But this is when you find out how good you are. Somebody has to pick up the slack."
The Blue Jays purchased the contract of right-handed rookie Jamie Vermilyea, who will serve as a long reliever, to fill the empty spot in the bullpen. The Jays transferred left-hander Davis Romero (torn labrum) to the 60-day DL to clear room on the roster for Vermilyea. With Ryan out for an undetermined amount of time, Toronto will turn to righty Jason Frasor as its primary closer.
"It's unfortunate for B.J. because I know it's killing him," said Frasor, who saved 17 games as a rookie in 2004. "You know how serious he takes this. We'll do what we can until he gets back."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.