DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Perfect late-game world for Toronto, closer B.J. Ryan returns strong from Tommy John ligament transfer surgery in April, which moves Jeremy Accardo and Brandon League into set-up roles.
Of course, Ryan is only 10 months out from a surgery that once took two years to return from. Now, the way the surgery has evolved, relievers sometimes can make it back in a year, and Ryan is pushing even that.
"I'm working hard to come in and show them I can be healthy and back to help the team," says Ryan, who likely will pitch live batting practice for the first time later this week.
Currently, Ryan is throwing a bullpen session followed by two days off before his next bullpen session. Within a couple of weeks, he'll advance to one day off between throwing. And when he's ready for games, Toronto will use him first in minor-league games so that the Jays can control the number of pitches he throws.
"We'll still have to monitor it during the season," manager John Gibbons says. "But Accardo proved to us last year that he can (close).
"Sometimes you'll have to slap yourself and say, 'Are you doing the right thing?'"
As for League, he's mostly been under the radar nationally, but he could play an important part if the Blue Jays are to be as good as they think they can be this year. He had a muscle problem in his shoulder last spring that caused him to lose 10 m.p.h. off of his fastball. Toronto had to shut him down, and League only threw 11 innings last season.
Gibbons says he now looks like the League of old and, "he's back in the mix. There are no limitations on him."
As Gibbons notes, League last year was going to be Toronto's eighth-inning guy. If he can re-emerge, and if Ryan can return ... well, let's just say the late innings in Toronto could be a whole lot more fun for the Blue Jays.
Likes: David Eckstein looks odd in a Toronto uniform, and he didn't get the multi-year contract he sought after battling a bad back last year and seeing his errors total shoot up to 20 from six in '06, but he's everything that's right about the game of baseball. Hard worker, little guy using all of his talent to succeed, a genuine nice guy. ... Scott Rolen out of St. Louis. It'll be nice to see what he can do without a maniacal manager. ... Francisco Liriano on his way to Twins camp. ... Monroe (Mich.) St. Mary Catholic Central 49, Clinton 38 in a boys' basketball district tournament opener on Monday night. Here's hoping the Falcons can whip Romulus Summit Academy on Wednesday night. ... Also, a belated congratulations to St. Mary Catholic Central coach Ray Lauwers, in his 41st year at the school and an old teacher of mine, for notching his 600th career victory last week. Lauwers, already in the Michigan became only the fourth coach in Michigan boys high school history to earn win No. 600. ... Fatburger. ... The ribs at Lee Roy Selmon's barbecue joint. ... Wilson Phillips' California disc.
Dislikes: Lousy concert schedule around Florida this spring. It's always a fun diversion when something lines up during spring training -- in past years, I've seen Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett and Bonnie Raitt here -- but this year's it's bone dry.
Sunblock day? Yes, but not for long. Temps in the mid-80s today and hot. But the clouds are moving in this afternoon, thunderstorms are forecast and Wednesday's high -- high -- is supposed to be only 60. Yikes!
Rock-n-Roll lyric of the day:
"Everybody is a star
"I can feel it when you shine on me
"I love you for who you are
"Not the one you feel you need to be
"Ever catch a falling star
"Ain't no stopping 'til it's in the ground
"Everybody is a star
"One big circle going round and round"
-- Sly and the Family Stone, Everyday People