Ryan filled the roster spot that opened Thursday, when Detroit placed Dontrelle Willis on the 15-day disabled list. Sardinha was designated to make room for Alfredo Figaro, who was promoted from Double-A Erie to pitch Saturday.
"This is about production," Leyland said about Ryan's arrival. "We're going to see if we can get some."
Ryan spent most of last September as the Tigers' everyday catcher, batting .318 with two homers and seven RBIs in 15 games, but went back to prospect status once Detroit traded for Gerald Laird at last December's Winter Meetings. He got off to a slow start in Spring Training and then into the season at Triple-A Toledo, batting .156 in April with 13 strikeouts in 45 at-bats. He rebounded to hit .309 in May with four homers and 12 RBIs.
He made an immediate impact Friday in the Tigers' 10-4, rain-shortened victory over the Brewers when he started in place of Laird, who started each of the Tigers' previous six games. His fourth-inning drive off the top of the left-field fence was initially ruled a go-ahead home run before umpires reviewed the replay and reversed it to a game-tying double. It still helped change the course of the game, and showed some of the power punch the Tigers are looking to find in their lineup.
Laird has caught 51 of the Tigers' first 67 games, a heavier workload than expected. Matt Treanor's hip injury, which is expected to keep him out the rest of the season, increased Laird's workload. While Sardinha provided some quality game-calling in Laird's place, he was just 3-for-31 at the plate with 16 strikeouts.
"It was getting to look like it was a little much for Gerald, but Gerald's still our catcher," Leyland said.
Leyland also noted Ryan's improvement defensively, especially at blocking balls in the dirt to his left.
Jason Beck is a report for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.