"A year removed from Tommy John," Blue Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi marvelled. "I think what he's done has been miraculous -- to come back that fast and be a guy sitting on 30 saves."
Ryan made the list of 10 elite relievers up for this season's honor, joining the incumbent Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox, Francisco Rodriguez of the Angels, Brad Lidge of the Phillies, Mariano Rivera of the Yankees, Joakim Soria of the Royals, Brian Fuentes of the Rockies, Joe Nathan of the Twins, Bobby Jenks of the White Sox and Brad Ziegler of the A's.
Everyone who votes will be entered into a sweepstakes for the chance to win a two-day, one-night trip for two to Game 4 of this year's World Series. The prize will include round-trip airfare, if needed, to the National League city of the Fall Classic, as well as accommodations and two tickets to the game.
To create the ballot, the editorial staff at MLB.com compiled a list of 15 relievers who have had outstanding regular seasons. The 10 finalists were then chosen from the list by a special Major League Baseball yellow-ribbon panel.
The 32-year-old Ryan is no stranger to DHL Delivery Man honors. In May, the 6-foot-6 left-hander was handed the DHL Delivery Man of the Month Award after going a perfect 10-for-10 in save opportunities with a 0.75 ERA over that span. Over the season's first two months, Ryan converted 12 saves in as many chances with a 0.53 ERA.
"I'm totally elated with what I've seen," Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg said.
Ryan, who had the season-ending reconstructive surgery on his elbow in May 2007, has saved 32 games in 36 chances, compiling 58 strikeouts and 28 walks in 60 appearances for the Blue Jays this year. Along the way, Ryan posted a 2.95 ERA, surrendered 46 hits and limited hitters to a .216 batting average over 58 innings.
It's been a strong showing, but one that's included a few rough spots.
Ryan's command has faltered at times, giving him more walks and fewer strikeouts than in seasons past. In 2006, during Ryan's first tour with the Jays after inking a five-year contract worth $47 million with the team, he posted a 1.37 ERA, saved 38 games, struck out 86 and walked just 20 over 72 1/3 innings.
"You'd like to see him go out there and pelt it," Arnsberg said. "But I just know, realistically, that that's not going to happen. It's going to take one good offseason, being this coming offseason, to really get him where he feels comfortable going out there.
"It's not a velocity issue -- it's his command," he continued. "I had the surgery and I know sometimes you lose a little bit of a feel for the ball. He gets out of whack a little bit with his mechanics, but he's not far off."
Ryan has returned strong enough to notch the third 30-save season of his career. This coming offseason will be Ryan's first chance to work through a normal winter routine since prior to the 2007 season. With that in mind, the Jays believe he'll show even more improvement in '09.
"To come back and contribute at this level has been amazing," Ricciardi said. "There's been bumps in the road, but that's to be expected, given where he's coming from. I think next year will be a better year for him."