Hyun Jin Ryu’s now ex-Blue Jays teammates speak on the impact he had on the club

Ryu may be gone now, but it doesn’t take away the lasting impression and impact he had with the Jays as a whole

Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays
Boston Red Sox v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Former Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Hyun Jin Ryu is returning to Korea to finish off his career after signing a record eight-year deal with the KBO Hanwha Eagles. That doesn’t take away the significant impact he had on the Jays despite his injury-riddled tenure with the ballclub. His impact has touched those around him in many ways, as his ex-Blue Jays teammates expressed their sincere gratitude in a recent article by The Athletic (subscription required) on the former All-Star and two-time Cy Young finalist.

Outfielder George Springer hinted that seeing the Jays bring in someone like Ryu to the organization was significant from his standpoint. 

“Anytime you see a guy like that go anywhere, you know that that organization is invested and wants to surround the guys who they have in that locker room with guys like him … He’s such an unbelievable human being … Obviously, I’m sad he’s gone, but to have a guy like that here, he really led the way and it was an honour to play with him,” Springer said.

Jays’ starter Chris Bassitt commented on Ryu’s unique pitching skillset that enabled him to be one of the top pitchers in the game.

“There’s not many guys that can throttle velo the way that he does, take velo off pitches, add velo to pitches, it’s very hard to do for a lot of guys … He was able to basically throw a pitch at three different speeds … that’s really, really hard to do. He knows how to pitch, he’s been doing it a long time,” Bassitt explained.

For Jays’ closer Jordan Romano, he talked about how Ryu made a difference for him when he just started setting foot on his MLB career. Romano also believed the big addition of Ryu at the time meant it was the start of something big for the team.

“He’s such a veteran guy and done a lot in the game and he always made me, as like a first-year guy, feel extremely welcome … Inviting me to the dinners, the team events … Usually, it could be for like exclusive guys that had been there a while, but he invited all us young guys, too, and made us feel really welcome and comfortable with the team,”Romano said. “The scouting of opposing players, like the homework that he did between every start, was incredible … probably the most extensive planning that I’ve ever seen. I definitely tried to take a little bit of that into my game.”

Catcher Danny Jansen, catching primarily for Ryu during his four-year tenure with the Jays, recalls the memorable experience he had in receiving from one of the game’s best.

“One of those masters of changing up speeds and keeping guys off-balance … So catching him, especially earlier in my career, … being with him and seeing that guy and how he works and how he goes about his business, how he switches stuff up, how he changes eye levels and has all sorts of different pitches, (it) definitely opened up my mind more. (I) definitely don’t have it all figured out, but it’s helped me,” Jansen commented.

But in terms of those he has a lasting impression on most, it was helping with the development of one of the promising young guns in the game in Alek Manoah.

“For me, being a younger guy coming up in the league and him being a veteran, he was never (like), ‘You need to do this, you need to do that,’ … He did a good job of taking me under his wing and showing me how it was done instead of telling me … His really positive energy, fun spirit was always really cool in the clubhouse,” Manoah said. “He was really good with mixing in his pitches and being able to explain to you why he’s mixing in certain pitches … It was always really cool for him to even be able to watch my bullpens and give me tips.”

Even though Justin Turner arrived one season too late to play with Ryu again as Jays’ teammates, he recalled their times together back with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“He’s a man of few words, but when he does say something, I think it always carried a lot of weight … That’s what I always loved about him,” Turner said.

As Ryu now returns to his former roots to complete his baseball journey, his ex-Jays teammates certainly believe he will continue his impact on the next generation in the sport in Korea.

“He’s very, very big on respect and all those things and that’s where his career started, so he was always big on going back and playing there, representing them again. They’re the ones who gave him the opportunity to come over here and play,” explained Manoah. “I’ve always kind of known that he was going to end up doing that and I feel like it’ll be great for him. He’ll be able to go over there and be a mentor to all the players over there, which is something he’s really good at doing. All the guys over there will be lucky to have him.”

Ryu finishes off his MLB career with a stellar 78-48 record with a 3.27 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, along with 934 strikeouts in 1055.1 innings pitched over his 10 seasons. Here, we send our best wishes to Ryu and his future endeavours and thank him gracefully for playing a part in making the Jays a team of relevance once again this decade.