Seattle Mariners shortstop Brendan Ryan is the opening day starter with one caveat - he has to be able to throw.
At the moment, he can't. At least not from short. Instead, still fighting the neck injury that sidelined him late last season, Ryan is playing catch on the sidelines and trying to build his way back to health.
Given that, the Mariners have begun seriously looking at options. Yesterday, after the full-squad practice ended, manager Eric Wedge and infield coach Robby Thompson took two players, Chone Figgins and Munenori Kawasaki, to a back field.
There, out of view of most of the media, Thompson hit ground balls for nearly 20 minutes to Figgins and Kawasaki at shortstop.
Wedge said it was just extra work, nothing out of the usual. But nothing quite like it had happened in camp. Getting Figgins reps at shortstop makes sense; the team wants him to play many positions in 2012.
Still, he hadn't taken a single grounder at shortstop until yesterday. And Kawasaki, the Japanese import, has taken dozens of balls at short all spring, so keeping him late for extra work was unusual.
Bottom line: The Mariners want Ryan healthy opening day but aren't certain they'll get that wish. If they don't, Figgins and Kawasaki figure to make up most of the time Ryan misses at shortstop.