WINTER HAVEN, Fla. -- B.J. Ryan's comeback trail is about to take another turn. The Blue Jays' closer is scheduled to appear in his first Grapefruit League game of the spring on Friday, when Toronto heads to St. Petersburg to take on Tampa Bay.
Barring a change of plans, the one-inning appearance will mark Ryan's first big league outing since April 14 last season, when the left-hander exited a game against Detroit with pain in his throwing elbow. On May 10, Ryan underwent season-ending ligament-replacement surgery on the joint.
Ryan, who signed a five-year deal worth $47 million to be the Jays' closer in November 2005, is attempting to rejoin Toronto's bullpen in time for Opening Day. This spring, Ryan has successfully completed three simulated games, one live batting-practice session and a handful of bullpen outings.
After his first simulated game on March 5, the Blue Jays had planned on having Ryan make his first Grapefruit League appearance against the Tigers last Saturday. That idea was put to rest when Dr. Timothy Kremchek -- the surgeon who performed Ryan's operation -- advised Toronto to keep the pitcher on his original schedule, which called for his first spring outing to wait until mid-March.
If Ryan does break camp with the Blue Jays, he will be roughly 11 months removed from surgery. Toronto is still taking a cautious approach with Ryan, who might not appear in consecutive games this spring. The hope is that Ryan will be able to regain the form he showed in 2006, when he posted a 1.37 ERA and saved 38 games for Toronto.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.