Toronto Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu wrapped up his spring with one final start against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday night. One day after his 34th birthday, Ryu fought through four innings of work, surrendering three runs on eight hits while striking out five batters. Ryu will now enjoy five full days of rest before leading the Blue Jays into the Bronx on Thursday for their season opener against the New York Yankees.
Ryu appeared in just three games this spring, culminating in 10 total innings. After two quiet outings against Baltimore and Detroit earlier this month, Ryu was forced to battle through some adversity at TD Ballpark in Dunedin on Friday. The Phillies had baserunners on in every inning, but Ryu was able to limit the damage to just one run until Bryce Harper went deep in the fifth.
The Blue Jays lefty ended his day shortly thereafter, throwing 89 pitches in total before the Jays rallied late to win the game. His final spring numbers show a 1-0 record with a 3.60 ERA, 11 strikeouts, 11 hits and two walks surrendered. In addition to those three starts, Ryu also tossed 77 pitches in a simulated game on March 21st.
Now the Blue Jays ace will shift his focus to New York and the start of the 2021 season. Many questions are still to be answered in the Blue Jays rotation and throughout the bullpen, but Ryu knows he’ll be taking the ball to start the season (the Blue Jays made that announcement official late Friday night). Toronto is going to rely heavily on Ryu, especially in the early going, with injuries taking their toll on the rest of the pitching staff.
Nate Pearson remains on the shelf with his status up in the air. Tanner Roark has had a rough spring to follow up what was a disastrous 2020 season. Elsewhere in the rotation, Steven Matz and Robbie Ray have shown some promise this spring, leading to a feeling of cautious optimism around them. However, Ray is reportedly dealing with a bruised elbow and both pitchers will still need to prove themselves once the games start for real.
Throw in the season-ending injury to Kirby Yates and it all adds up to a group with more question marks than answers. That puts even more pressure on Ryu to continue to meet the expectations that come with being an ace in the Major Leagues. Fortunately, Ryu has shown an ability to be a quick starter throughout his career. Over 28 career starts in March and April, Ryu has posted a 3.11 ERA with a 13-8 record and 9.8 strikeouts per 9 IP. May has been Ryu’s best month over the years, as shown by his 2.03 ERA in 18 career May starts.
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When you dive deeper into the numbers, the one word that comes to mind with Ryu is consistency. Whether pitching on the road or at home, during the day or at night, Ryu consistently delivers at a high level. The Blue Jays will need that to continue with all the uncertainty surrounding the rest of the rotation and the fact that the team doesn’t know where they’ll be playing their home games as the calendar rolls on. Ryu’s calm, steady presence will be crucial as the rest of the pitching staff settles into their roles in the coming weeks.
For now, Ryu must focus on slowing down the Bronx Bombers and their high powered offence. Ryu went 1-0 with a 3.75 ERA in two starts against the Yankees last season, including seven innings of shutout ball in his final regular season start. Ryu’s performance in those divisional meetings will be huge this season as the Jays look to challenge New York and Tampa Bay for the AL East crown.
In addition to Thursday’s opener, Ryu is also tentatively in line to face the Yankees when they travel to Dunedin later this month. Look for more clarity on the rest of the Blue Jays rotation as the week rolls on.