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Game-winning hit gives Brendan Ryan a boost after injury filled season

Yankees second baseman Brendan Ryan hits an RBI

Yankees second baseman Brendan Ryan hits an RBI single against the Baltimore Orioles during the sixth inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday, July 21, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It's hard to get a true read on Brendan Ryan at times. Win or lose, in the field or in the dugout, he's normally a consistent level of upbeat.

So when Ryan shifted his tone while speaking to reporters in the clubhouse after the Yankees' 3-2 win over the Orioles on Tuesday about his tumultuous, injury-laden first half -- tossing out adjectives such as frustrating, difficult, unreliable -- the toll it has taken was evident.

"This is what we love to do. It's fun to compete," Ryan said. "When your body fails you, and I mean just random, stupid things . . . I came into spring training hurt because I was hurt doing bicep curls. I mean how does that happen? Some of the stuff is just out of your control."

Ryan's RBI double down the leftfield line scored Didi Gregorius with what ended up being the game-winning run in the sixth inning and was the exclamation mark on his return to the Bronx. He was activated from the disabled list last Friday.

The most telling words Ryan spoke came when the crowd of reporters surrounding him began to disperse after two minutes of questioning.

"What, that's it?" Ryan said with a smile, eager to continue the conversation. This is the Ryan everyone remembers.

The strained back from bicep curls was just the beginning of his injury troubles. He then strained his calf, and then strained a hamstring while rehabbing that calf. After finally working his way back, a right thoracic strain sent him right back to the disabled list after playing in just six games.

"I'm sure it meant a lot [to him]," manager Joe Girardi said of Ryan's big hit. "Physically, it's been tough, but he's back and we need him to keep it up."

Having a veteran such as Ryan, a versatile defender who can play any position in the infield, is a luxury Girardi hasn't taken for granted.

"We've talked throughout the last couple years and change, and I feel like he's got my back," Ryan said. "He's had some very complimentary stuff."

Ryan batted ninth on Tuesday -- just his eighth game of the season. Before his double, he had gone 0-for-3.

"A big hit like that to win a game," third baseman Chase Headley said, "goes a long way with confidence.

"We haven't seen a lot of him. But he's a great clubhouse guy. Has a lot of fun. Keeps it loose in here. So we enjoy it when he's around and feel good for him when he comes back with a big hit when he's been dealing with all those nagging injuries."

Each time Ryan articulated how exciting the moment was, he preceded it by noting just how thankful he was even to be on the field.

"I'm just trying to cross every T, dot every I, and make sure that anything in my control, I'm taking care of," Ryan said. "If freak stuff comes up, what can you do? I'm just hoping and praying, literally, that it's all behind me, and that I can have a strong second half."

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