Christianson Fighting Way Back Onto Prospect Map

TACOMA, Wash. - Ryan Christianson has proven himself to be a resilient player. After struggling with major injuries the last three seasons, the former first round draft pick has a chance this year to prove his ability as an everyday catcher. But his first two months have been yet another struggle, with a 15-game suspension and a nagging finger injury. Does Christianson have what it takes to earn a spot on the M's roster later this year?

Felix Hernandez suddenly found himself in a position he'd never been in on a baseball diamond... six feet in the air.

This new perspective was courtesy of Ryan Christianson, the Rainiers' starting catcher, who lifted the 19-year-old pitcher on his shoulders during a friendly pre-game wrestling match. Felix may be the future of the Mariners' pitching staff, but when it comes to wrestling, his battery mate has a distinct advantage: experience.

You see, Christianson has wrestled with more adversity in the first few months this season than most players face in a season… or two.

First, his spring training was cut short when he broke his left index finger on March 25. Then, on April 5, he was named as one of 38 players who had violated baseball's new steroid policy. As a result, Christianson was suspended for the Rainiers' first 15 games.

Coming back from the suspended list, the 23-year-old catcher wasted no time making a positive contribution offensively, starting the season 9-for-9. When Wiki Gonzalez was called up to join the Mariners in early May, Christianson had an opportunity to do something he hadn't been able to do in more than two years: catch every day.

Gaining more experience behind the plate is key to Ryan's plans to become a major leaguer.

"If I get an opportunity to play in the big leagues, that's how I'm going to do it, as a catcher," Christianson said.

"I'm working on consistency," the former first round pick added. "I haven't done it in a while."

But more struggles were around the corner. Christianson re-broke his index finger while fouling off a pitch on May 6. He only missed one game, but his average has dipped from .400 to .295 since the injury.

Christianson shrugs off any mention of the shattered index finger or its effect on his performance.

"Everything's good," he said. "So far so good,"

Maybe a broken finger is nothing compared to the shoulder injury that caused him to miss all of 2003, or the elbow problems that hampered him in 2004.

"That's the biggest thing I'm trying to do this year, stay away from injuries," the catcher added.

Perhaps more troubling for Christianson is that the Mariners have used three different catchers in an attempt to replace Dan Wilson so far this year, and none of them have been him.

"I honestly don't know what I need to do to get called up," he says, before slyly adding, "but if I knew I'd try to do it."

Given the laundry list of problems that have plagued Christianson so far this year, it would be understandable if he became unapproachable, or negative, or less focused on the team. But Christianson takes it all in stride.

"I don't really have a problem [staying positive]," the catcher remarked. "My job here is to help everybody, and try to win. It's pretty easy to stay positive when you're trying to help other people."

When you've wrestled with as much adversity as Ryan Christianson has in his minor league career, there's no better way to approach the game than the way he is right now.

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