Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Baseball [Print without images]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Brendan Ryan ready for unhappy fans

By Andrew Marchand
ESPNNewYork.com

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the name of Derek Jeter's backup, Brendan Ryan, appears in the New York Yankees' lineup this season, Ryan knows fans will be unhappy.

And he has a plan to combat the jeers.

"Embrace the boos," the slick-fielding Ryan said Tuesday.

Brendan Ryan
Yankees backup shortstop Brendan Ryan says if he's "getting high-fives from my teammates, I'm doing something right and that's what matters."

Jeter announced on Facebook last week that he plans to retire after this season, a decision he is expected to elaborate on during a news conference Wednesday.

With Jeter turning 40 and coming off a season in which he played in just 17 games because of injuries, the 31-year-old Ryan is expected to receive a share of the playing time when the five-time World Series champion is out of the lineup.

That makes Ryan's backup role a more prominent one.

"I'm going to get booed regardless," Ryan said. "I've been booed before. Who cares? If I'm getting high-fives from my teammates, I'm doing something right and that's what matters. Hopefully the fans will come around after that."

Ryan is considered a superior defender to Jeter, but he has hit less than .200 the past two seasons. There has been speculation that manager Joe Girardi may use Ryan as a late-game defensive replacement for Jeter or possibly when he has a ground ball starter on the mound.

"I don't know if Derek is going to be all that fired up to come out of games, if that is what we are talking about," said Ryan, who signed a two-year, $4 million contact with the Yankees before Jeter's announcement. "I don't know. It is a tough one. Every guy has a lot of pride in this clubhouse. I don't think that is something that he is going to be in favor of. He doesn't have the [manager's] office, so he is not going to have that last call. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

"A lot of it is going to be on how he is feeling, I'm sure. I'd expect if it is a six-run lead going into the eighth or ninth, I won't get the save but I can keep him a little bit fresher for the next day."

In the back of his mind, Ryan thinks if he can raise his average to close to the levels it was in St. Louis -- where he hit .292 in 2009 -- he could be in the running to be the Yankees' starting shortstop in 2015.

"If I'm hitting .270 with the defense, I can not only help this team, I can help any team," Ryan said.

Ryan said he and Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long are going to a more simplified approach instead of trying to hit for power, which, the shortstop said, he was instructed to try to do in Seattle. Ryan has never hit more than four home runs in a season.