Ryan's return pushed back

Ryan's return pushed back

ST. LOUIS -- Brendan Ryan will not join the Cardinals immediately when he is eligible to be activated from the disabled list. Manager Tony La Russa said Wednesday that Ryan, who hasn't played since March 17 as a result of discomfort in his rib cage, will need to go on a rehabilitation assignment before he rejoins the Major League club.

"He needs to play," La Russa said. "He just can't come out there without playing games. You've got to let him work out and play, and then the people that are observing him [will make a decision]."

Ryan aggravated what had been a very mild intercostal muscle strain on St. Patrick's Day in a collision when he tumbled into third base. He has said that he was playing with some discomfort in the area for a few days before that game, but the spill made his condition worse.

Initially, Ryan hoped to able to start the season on the active roster. However, as Spring Training wound to an end, it became evident that he would be shelved for Opening Day. He was placed on the DL retroactive to March 21, which would make him eligible to be activated on Saturday.

Minor League games begin on Thursday, so if Ryan were cleared to play, he could begin a rehabilitation assignment then. But La Russa said he does not expect Ryan will be headed anywhere in the Cardinals system that soon.

"I haven't heard that he is," La Russa said. "I think he's still getting well. You've got to make sure he's well before you send him out anywhere."

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.