TAMPA, Fla. -- Brendan Ryan understands that there will be some disappointed customers in the building when it is his name, and not Derek Jeter's, that appears on the lineup card as the Yankees' shortstop for any given game.
But after last year, the Yanks know all too well that Jeter can't do it alone. Ryan is looking forward to sharing the position, knowing that it will be a memorable experience to serve as the understudy for the captain's final Major League season.
"Where else would I rather be?" Ryan said. "This is a special opportunity, and whether it's a few days a week, or a few days a month, I might as well embrace it. It's a special opportunity to play with a special guy in his last season."
Ryan played 17 games with the Yankees last September, but he and Jeter have never been on the active roster at the same time. The Yankees ended Jeter's season by placing him on the disabled list last Sept. 11, the same day that Ryan arrived after being traded by the Mariners.
"I've always been a big, big fan of Jeter's -- and that was well before I knew anything about him personally," Ryan said. "I loved the way he played the game, the way he moved, the way he took ground balls. I wanted to look like that, going back to high school.
"It's kind of surreal now to be here with him, putting on the same uniform. It's something I think we're all looking forward to. We'll be sad in the end, but hopefully we won't be sad when we're pouring champagne at the end of the year."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that it would be "ideal" if Jeter can play shortstop, since they have big outfield bats who would be better options at designated hitter. General manager Brian Cashman said that using Ryan as a late-inning defensive replacement for Jeter has not been discussed.
"Obviously he's here as the backup. That's it," Cashman said. "He'll be utilized in any way that our manager feels will help, whether it's spelling a day or coming off the bench. Whatever is necessary. But it's not something we've discussed in any way."
There will undoubtedly be days off, and for those fans who show up at ballparks this season to witness Jeter's farewell tour and get nine innings of Ryan instead, Ryan said that he can sympathize. An avid Los Angeles Clippers fan, the shortstop said that he attended three games this season while point guard Chris Paul was injured.
"It's still your team, but the heart and soul is not out there," Ryan said. "I apologize to those fans who come when he's not playing."