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Brendan Ryan discusses the process of getting back to the Bronx

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Pinstripe Alley caught up with the big league infielder during his rehab stint with the Trenton Thunder.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight season, Brendan Ryan started the season on the disabled list with an injury sustained in spring training. This year, it was a calf strain that put him on the shelf, and an aggravation of his hamstring during his rehab made the process that much longer. Yet Ryan is finally close to being back in the Show after a few games in Scranton and three games with Trenton.

Extended spring training stinks. Ryan himself told you so in the first paragraph of my piece the other day. Not only was this May one of the hottest on record in Florida history, but Ryan had other things to worry about. "It's hard to stick your nose in there [at the plate]," he said. "Guys are throwing upper 90's and they've got no idea where it's going." Ryan wasn't trying to criticize the young flamethrowers the Yankees are developing, of course. In fact, he's one of the nicest guys in the game. It's just that it's hard to get back into the swing of things at the plate when facing that kind of pitching.

It's just one of the reasons that reaching the upper minors in his rehab is so rewarding. "It's a matter of, you know, getting more rhythm and timing at the plate and trying to recognize pitches. I haven't felt too good recognizing stuff up until this point... You get up here, you get some more competitive at-bats and you get some people in the seats and all that, it's a much better environment. So hopefully I can build off [these games]."

Yet even when Ryan is finally up to full speed there isn't a clear picture of what will happen. The Yankees currently have Didi Gregorius, Jose Pirela and the struggling Stephen Drew filing infield spots on the roster, as well as second base Robert Refsnyder awaiting his call in Triple-A. It would be tempting to simply do away with Drew; however, Ryan does not offer an offensive upgrade and doesn't posses the occasional left-handed power that Drew brings to the table. Ryan knows that the deck is stacked against him at the moment but he's staying positive. That starts in spring training, and for him it's why his injuries for the past two years have been so tough.

"In my position where you're not slotted in as a starter, you want to make an impression in spring training. For me, that's playing some third, playing some second and short, showing some athleticism, putting some good at-bats together against lefties and righties. Just being a good option," he said. "Whatever Joe wants to do up there, whether he wants to ride waves or have a steady infield with one guy starting at each spot. Whatever he wants to do, you just want to make sure you're ready when you get your opportunity."

He hopes that opportunity comes soon, and in pinstripes. "I haven't heard too much. I mean I can make assumptions and all that, but I think they just want me to get some more rhythm and timing... and hopefully I'll start to feel better at the plate and feel like I can contribute once they recall me."

The good news for Ryan is that he made some hard contact at the plate in his last three games and looked good at not only his native shortstop, but at third and second as well. He said his leg "feels great," and that with the exercises the organization's trainers have him doing he's improving quickly. His sojourn through the minors has also afforded Ryan the chance to see plenty of the Yankees' prospects. He said he doesn't know many of their names (there's only so many young kids one guy can keep track of while bouncing between workouts and teams), but there was a lot he was impressed with and also had high praise for the coaching he saw throughout the system. "As much as you're impressed with guys here and there, the coaching throughout the system is pretty outstanding. They've done a nice job of putting people in certain places." He also offered an update on the recovering Ivan Nova. According to Ryan, "He was throwing 95 with run and sink, throwing that curveball. He's fired up. He's really excited to get back, been itching to this whole time and it'll be a big boost for us."

There's a chance that Brendan Ryan won't be a Yankee when he returns to the Major Leagues. That's understandable given the glut of infield depth the Yankees posses. Yet should that come to pass, the Yankees will be losing one of the good guys in baseball. It wouldn't surprise me if Brendan Ryan is a coach someday. His time with the Yankees may be coming to an end at some point soon but someone will find a use for his plus defense. Perhaps the A's want someone to spell Marcus Semien at shortstop that's not Andy Parrino, or the Mets want to take on more fielding ability in the infield. If he stays, it'll be great. If not, however, it's been fun.

Nicolas Stellini is a staff writer at Pinstripe Alley, where he writes about the Yankees and covers the Double-A Trenton Thunder. His national coverage can be found at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @StelliniTweets.