The timing of the operation was both a surprise and a disappointment to the Cardinals, but also to Ryan. He said Tuesday afternoon that, until very recently, he hadn't even been aware that surgery was a possibility.
"There's nothing else," Ryan said of the pain that has bothered him at times for several years. "I've done everything. What stone is unturned at this point? And this was a stone I didn't even know was out there."
Dr. Steven Shin, a hand specialist at the Kerlan-Jobe clinic in California, performed the operation.
General manager John Mozeliak acknowledged that the club wasn't thrilled with Ryan having surgery so soon before Spring Training starts -- infielders and outfielders report to Jupiter, Fla., in 12 days. The situation is somewhat reminiscent of last winter, when third baseman Troy Glaus had shoulder surgery in January for a problem that had bothered him the previous winter.
"I'm disappointed that it went this long," Mozeliak said. "Obviously you want to go into camp healthy. ... This is clearly something that, if it was done sooner after the season, it would have made a lot more sense."
However, Mozeliak said that the club has no plans at this point to pursue additional depth at shortstop in the wake of the announcement. The GM added that he is "not worried" about Ryan's ability to contribute once he has recovered.
In Ryan's mind, in fact, it's quite the contrary. Despite the worrisome nature of any procedure on a hitter's wrist, he's excited about the possibilities. He estimated that he took no, or virtually no, batting practice before about half of the Cardinals' games last year. His hope is that the surgery allows him to play pain-free and without missing the time periodically to rest the wrist or receive cortisone shots.
"I'm here with a soft cast on and just hoping this [repair] is long-term," he said. "I hope I can take the amount of swings I would love to take. It's taken some joy out of the game, to be honest. Last year was pretty brutal at times. I'd go in and take one swing of batting practice and shut it down. It became my superstition. One swing, and get back to the clubhouse and try to get a couple hits that day."
Ryan explained that, early in the offseason, he wasn't feeling much pain in his wrist. But as his workouts went on, the discomfort came back.
On the advice of new hitting coach and offseason workout partner Mark McGwire, Ryan decided to go see a doctor. He hoped to receive anti-inflammatory medication. Instead, Shin suggested surgery.
"It was time to get a new set of eyes on it," Ryan said. "And Dr. Shin said that sometimes those MRIs and arthrograms, they don't tell the whole story. The only way to really know is to go in there. I'd never heard that before. As soon as he said cutting, I kind of started tuning him out. But then he said the timeline [for recovery], and the timeline was so brief, it was like, well, you know, maybe this is an option."
And so the wheels were set in motion, culminating with surgery on Tuesday.
"Not that I was eager to get cut," Ryan said. "Because like I said, as soon as he started talking about it, I almost looked the other way. But the timeline was what made it so tempting. It was the only stone that was unturned."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.