Scheduling Ryan a challenge for Jays

Scheduling Ryan a challenge for Jays

TORONTO -- Handling B.J. Ryan's pitching schedule is proving to be a balancing act for Blue Jays manager John Gibbons. Toronto has to make sure that its closer is getting regular work while still limiting how frequently he takes the mound.

Ryan is still less than one year removed from the Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery he had performed on his left elbow last May 10, so Gibbons wants to make sure he's not pushing the pitcher harder than necessary. Still, he doesn't want Ryan sitting unused in the bullpen.

"You've got to be careful, and you've got to be smart with the guy," Gibbons said. "You can't get too overly excited now that you know he's back, because it's still been less than a year.

"You've got to keep him working. You don't want him all of a sudden to sit, because then there's a chance he could backslide. He's still in the building process."

For now, Gibbons said, the Jays don't want Ryan to go more than three days without working off a mound, whether it's in a light bullpen session or in a game. General manager J.P. Ricciardi added that Ryan isn't likely to appear in a game on consecutive days until at least the anniversary of the operation.

"That doesn't mean we're going to do it then, either," Ricciardi said. "It's not an easy predicament to be in as a manager. ... We're just trying to be judicious in how we use him and ease him to a point where he's stronger at the end."

Until the 32-year-old Ryan is cleared to pitch in back-to-back games, Gibbons will continue to divide save opportunities between Ryan and relievers Scott Downs and Jeremy Accardo. Toronto opened the season with Accardo as its interim closer, but the right-hander has struggled to find consistency with his split-finger fastball.

As a result, Accardo's ERA has climbed to 8.44 through six games, and he's only been used once in Toronto's past six games, entering Wednesday. Over that same span, Downs and Ryan each have one save. Neither Gibbons nor Ricciardi expressed much concern about Accardo's early issues.

"They all go through phases where some things don't work," Ricciardi said. "He went through a phase last year where his splitter wasn't working good, either, and he kind of rallied. It's a long year. Some guys go from having their best stuff every night and then they hit a little bit of a wall. Accardo's been fine."

On Wednesday, Ryan was available for a potential save situation against the Rangers. If the Blue Jays don't need to use him, though, Gibbons said that he would likely throw in a light bullpen session and appear in Thursday's game.

"That's the thing. You have to keep him on a schedule," Gibbons said about Ryan, who notched 38 saves for the Jays in 2006. "We don't want to sit him three days without doing something. Now, that might mean just getting him up in the bullpen to throw an easy side or something. He has to keep working, though."

Ryan was activated from the 15-day disabled list on Sunday and made his first appearance of the season that same day, picking up a save against the Rangers on the road. In that outing, his fastball was a few mph short of the low-90s heater he featured in 2006, but Gibbons believes that Ryan's velocity will continue to improve with time.

"We feel eventually he's going to come back to where he was," Gibbons said. "The thing about B.J is there's so much deception, that he can make an 88-mph fastball look 90-plus, because [hitters] don't pick it up -- they never have."

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