When the season ended, Seattle Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan couldn’t turn his head too far left or right – and hadn’t been able to in weeks.
Today, nearly a month and a half later, Ryan’s range of motion is close to full but not yet enough that he’s been cleared to swing a bat.
A high-energy personality who seemed only to have one gear last season – full speed ahead – Ryan allows himself only the smallest possible baseball activity.
“I watch television with a bat in my hand,” he said from his Los Angels home. “I’m close. I’m a lot better than I was, but I think I expected to bounce back a lot faster than I have.”
Ryan, 29, was having a solid season until an in-game collision with third baseman Adam Kennedy as both chased a foul pop-up in early August. The diagnosis was a strained AC joint in his right shoulder.
Interestingly, after a long day of exercising now, Ryan said that’s close to where he still feels discomfort.
“I still get little pain at end of the day, and they call it ‘referred pain,’ ” Ryan said. “It’s under my right shoulder blade, like a pressing, after days I’m working out. It’s fatigue, they tell me.
“The exercises I’m doing are strengthening muscles, stretching them, getting my range of motion back. I’m about full range of motion with my neck. I don’t know how much is left to regain.”
Since taking few days off after the 2011 season ended, Ryan has been in physical therapy three times a week. He hasn’t thrown a baseball or swung at one, yet.
“I’m itching to get going, but got to be smart,” he said. “The guys I work with are constantly talking to (trainer) Rick Griffin in Seattle and to the team doctors. They want me to wait, I wait. I do exactly what they’re telling me.”
And, he said, exactly what manager Eric Wedge told him.
“We had a great talk the last day of the season,” Ryan said. “My problem was I pushed a little too hard at times, and he wanted me to be accountable and reliable, to take care of everything you can control.
“Eric wanted me to know when to push, when to back off a little. Beyond that, he wants me to maintain a higher weight, stay stronger.
“He’s a special manager. Incredibly straightforward, fair, caring – you want to accomplish everything in the world for him. He lives what he says.”
Ryan understood the part about knowing when to step off the full-speed-ahead style.
“After the collision with Adam, I missed a couple of weeks, and when I came back, the back spasms started,” he said. “The last two months, I wasn’t fair to myself. I tried to do things I couldn’t do.
“At the plate I’d lost all rhythm. I’d been hitting pretty well until I got hurt. Then I didn’t play well at all.”
In his final 78 at-bats of the season, Ryan batted just .179, dropping his season average to .248. At the time of his injury, he’d was hitting .264.
Ryan thinks he’ll be cleared to start swinging again with the next 10 days.
“I want to start hitting right away,” he said. “I want to be rolling come spring training. I had a good feel a few times last season, but I don’t want the peaks and valleys. I think I can hit between .280 and .300 all year.
“Of course, that means I’m going to have to keep myself in check once I get the OK. My first thought is get in a cage and hit all day. I won’t do that.”
WELLS GETTING WELL
Mariners outfielder Casper Wells, who missed the final weeks of the season with “vertigo-like symptoms” appears to be doing well today.
“I’m fine, I’m doing some physical therapy involving my eyes, but it’s not really an issue, anymore,” Wells said. “One of the doctors testing my eyes said they were so good that when I was having the trouble my eyesight was still better than most people, so tests weren’t picking anything up.”