Two Wednesdays ago I was mired in Round 11 of a competitive draft when I shot a quick phone call to a trusted fantasy friend and co-worker. The clock was winding down and I had yet to take a closer, so I asked what my boy thought of
Early in his career, Ryan's slingshot, jerky delivery made throwing strikes a chore. Over a few years in the O's bullpen, he made the transition from lefty specialist to setup man, and eventually became the primary table-setter for
In 2004 and '05 with Baltimore and '06 with Toronto, Ryan was at the top of his game. His control had improved dramatically, his sharp-breaking slider was nearly unhittable, and his low-90s fastball had great tailing movement. Correspondingly, Ryan's numbers were amazing:
But in May 2007, the Louisiana native's trademark sliders -- jettisoned frequently from his enormous 6-foot-6-inch frame during a whopping 210 appearances in three seasons -- got the better of his elbow. He underwent Tommy John surgery after a handful of April outings, and was reactivated less than a full year after the surgery in April 2008.
When Ryan returned, his arm probably wasn't fully healed and his slider wasn't quite as sharp, but he was still fairly effective. Forearm problems kept him out of 11 games, but the crafty fireman finished '08 with 32 saves, a 2.95 ERA and 58 Ks in 58 innings.
Now, he's throwing in the low-to-mid-80s, and
While nothing's set in stone, I anticipate Ryan won't be back to his old self this season. The chaotic, sneaky motion that helped exasperate hitters also did a number on his wing. The popular myth that arms come back stronger following Tommy John surgery is a crock. It's logically unsound and has been dispelled by many of the leading surgeons in the field, including Dr.
Like I said last week -- beware any closer whose tricky, bumpy delivery helps him get outs, because it could also get him a few weeks or months out of action. Let's get to the pecking order. Since we're still waiting for the season to begin, I've once again included last year's statistics for each starting closer in italics under his name.