Trotting out to shortstop at Safeco Field for the first time since September of last year, former Mariner Brendan Ryan had a flashback Tuesday.
His first thought did not involve the numerous magnificent defensive plays he made from that spot during three seasons with the Mariners before being traded to the New York Yankees on Sept. 10, 2013 for cash.
Rather, Ryan, in town with the Yankees for a three-game series, thought about Felix Hernandez’s perfect game.
Out for early batting practice Tuesday, Ryan was greeted with hugs and laughs by numerous Seattle players and personnel. His first time back was enjoyable as opposed to emotional.
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“You forget just how beautiful the stadium is,” Ryan said. “Driving to the ballpark, there’s just a lot of good memories. Lot of friendships made over here and I continue to follow the guys, pull for them, except for when we’re playing each other.
“I just had a great time here. So many friendly people. It was just three wonderful years.”
Among those jogging over to say hello was the reason Ryan was traded: Brad Miller. The Mariners had run out of patience while waiting for Ryan’s hitting to come within a country mile of his fielding. In 2012, he led the American League in defensive WAR (wins above replacement), but hit only .194.
Miller presented the prospect of improved hitting, though his defense was understood to not be on the same level as Ryan’s.
Talking with the News Tribune days before being traded last season, Ryan said he could see what was coming. Yet, he was working with Miller, whom he continues to root for.
“The situation played itself out,” Ryan said Tuesday. “I’m not stupid. I know what’s going on. What good does it do me to be Bitter Bob and not throw out some pieces of advice that helped me? He’s got a great sense of humor, so we get along great.
“He’s a really, really good guy. I just, I don’t know, wanted to pay it forward. I had help coming up, so shame on me if I’m going to have any ill will or bitter feelings. I continue to pull for him and I’m happy to see him so upbeat.. He’s going to be fine. He’s too good of a player to struggle for too long a time. As long as he stays confident and positive, it will turn.”
Miller has struggled. His .172 average coming into Wednesday was last in the American League among those qualified for the batting title. His nine errors are third-most in the league and second-most among shortstops.
Though, he values his time with Ryan, who worked with him during pregame drills on an almost daily basis.
“He was always extremely helpful,” Miller said. “He treated me like anybody -- actually, even better. Guys that are really good at something aren’t necessarily great teachers, but he is. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better because of him.”
Ryan is surprised the man in charge of the team when he was traded is no longer in Seattle. Ryan had nothing but praise for former Seattle manager Eric Wedge, who chose not to return to the Mariners after not receiving a multiyear contract offer at the end of 2013.
“I felt like he did what he set out to do,” Ryan said. “He kind of had a tough hand; I felt like he was a good leader, he was very fair to me. I’ve texted him a couple times since to wish him well and to thank him for the opportunities I was given. I love the man. I would do anything for him. He was great to me.
“I don’t want to step on anyone’s toes with what happened between him and (general manager) Jack (Zduriencik). I’m sure he’ll get another opportunity somewhere else but I think he’s pretty happy on the broadcasting side.”
Ryan signed a two-year deal in the offseason to remain in the Bronx. While there, he'll retain good memories of Seattle.