By Shannon Drayer
Brendan Ryan feels better prepared both physically and mentally to contribute to the Mariners this season – and he isn’t just talking about his Gold Glove-worthy defense.
“The defense is there and I love what people have to say about that, but I know I can be a complete player,” he told “Bob and Groz” Friday afternoon. “I want to bring that spark back to the lineup wherever that might be. I want to be a distraction to the pitchers and help the ballclub win games.”
After hitting .194 last season, Brendan Ryan hopes a steadier approach and better health leads to more offense. (AP)
The physical side of things was taken care of first as Ryan underwent surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. The spur had caused problems for him for some time and as a result he wasn’t able to get into the weight room last offseason. Ryan told Bob Stelton that he felt stronger and in better physical shape than he did a year ago.
As for the mental side, that rehab will be an ongoing process, with his biggest battles to come when he faces the struggles that all ballplayers have.
“My thing was, I have got to try harder. Get in the cage and spend more time there,” he said. “What I think happens most of the time is the harder you try, the harder it gets and things start to snowball. Maybe the biggest thing is confidence, going up there and believing something good was going to happen.
“It just felt all year I would get the count to that pitch, I would get the pitch and just miss it. It might even turn into a walk but you don’t even feel good about that because you knew you should have hit that pitch and you should have been standing on second. The frustration just kept building.”
What Ryan was describing was exactly what we saw both in the clubhouse and on the field. It is a struggle for him to leave failure out on the field. It was not an uncommon sight to see him come back to the dugout yelling at himself for having a poor batting practice. He knows he has to let that go.
He also knows that he can’t panic and change his approach or stance just because it isn’t working for a week or a game or even an at-bat. The awareness to his bad habits is there but maintaining the good habits in tough times – and for Ryan, tough times at times could equal one at-bat – is easier said than done. The good news is he will have help.
“I had a chance to work with Dave Hansen, the new hitting coach, a week ago. It felt like we got off on the right foot,” he said. “He has seen me play over the last few years and as a Cardinal. He has seen me play in some of my better moments and some of my lesser but I think part of it is not changing my stance every day.
“Playing small ball, being scrappy. I was over there with [David] Eckstein for a little bit and you saw how scrappy he was and he stuck his nose in there and competed every at-bat and that’s who I need to be. I need to be a guy that isn’t trying to get greedy with doubles and extra-base hits; those will come if I stay within my plan and get those line drives and hard ground balls.”
Again, getting greedy with the extra-base hits is something we saw last year. For a guy who has hit 15 home runs in six years there is no question we saw some ridiculous swings at times. The first step to consistent performance is knowing what you are. The second step for Ryan is remembering that. The reward for him will be that if he can find any kind of success he can step up in the dugout and clubhouse as a leader. It is something he wants and something that Eric Wedge asked him to do before the start of last season.
“Being part of a young team, being one of the saltier guys, you want to be vocal but it is tough when things aren’t going your way,” he said. “I’m glad I got a whole offseason to unlearn things. I am coming into camp much more fit, much more strong and feeling good about where I need to be.”