The stat lines show mixed results, but during his first start in a Blue Jays uniform Hyun-Jin Ryu showed why he’ll be worth every penny of the contract he signed this winter.
The Blue Jays entered the last off-season knowing that they desperately needed to improve their starting rotation. While fans hoped for the best, I think I can speak for the majority of Blue Jays fans when I say that signing Hyun-Jin Ryu to a four-year, 80 million dollar contract came as a pleasant surprise.
And if his first start is any indication, he looks like he’s going to be worth every penny.
The box score makes it look like Ryu had an underwhelming night, and admittedly he was a few pitches away from really stealing the show in his first start for the Blue Jays. That said, he showed off his bag of tricks and really impressed for most of the game. He finished with a line of 4.2 innings allowed three earned runs against four hits and three walks, but again, it doesn’t tell the whole story.
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The southpaw induced soft contact throughout the evening, and you could argue that two of his three walks were borderline intentional given the circumstances around when they happened. He mixed speeds very well, showing off his elite change-up, which contrasts well and makes his fastball a lot more effective in much the same way that Marco Estrada found success as a Blue Jay.
However, what impressed me the most about the Korean-born hurler was his poise on the mound. Even when he found himself in a bit of a jam, it never felt like the game was out of his control. That presence felt palpable to me watching the game at home on my couch, and I can only imagine how much more prominent it would feel to his young teammates.
When you consider that players had to re-start their spring/summer training, and really didn’t have a lot of time to get ready, the fact that Ryu threw 97 pitches on Friday has to be seen as positive sign. He also kept a talented Rays team from having a true breakout inning, giving his team a chance to win. And despite limited time and strange circumstances to get familiar with new teammates, Ryu has already made a positive impression on others like Trent Thornton, who has already learned a few things about the ace’s cutter.
If the Blue Jays are going to have any chance to compete for one of the spots in the expanded playoffs this year, they’re going to need to win the majority of Ryu’s starts. As for the first go-around, it wasn’t perfect, but it should give both Ryu and his young teammates the confidence to build on that first win, and maybe even surprise some folks this year.