Fresh off a disappointing trade deadline, Toronto Blue Jays fans had something to look forward to heading into last night's matchup with the Orioles. Hyun Jin Ryu made his long-awaited return to the mound, 426 days since the last time he toed the rubber in a major league ballpark.
For fans hoping for a pick-me-up, Ryu's return didn't give the team the boost they've desperately needed. Sure, morale in the clubhouse was, most likely, at a high. How could it not? Having a well-liked veteran such as Ryu returning to action made it feel like the Jays made a trade to bolster the rotation.
The results on the field, however, left something to be desired.
Ryu pitched admirably for his first start back from Tommy John. While his final line of four earned runs on nine hits with three strikeouts and a walk over five innings doesn't look great, it also could have ended up looking a little better.
If, before the game, someone had said that Ryu would go five and only give up three runs against arguably one of the hottest-hitting teams in baseball, most fans would have gladly taken that result.
That's precisely what Ryu did.
He kept the damage to three runs on eight hits through five frames — a successful outing after the Orioles jumped on him early. With three straight hits and two runs to start the game, it looked like it may be a short debut. The lefty, who relies more on command than velocity, didn't appear to be fooling Oriole hitters early on but kept his team in the game, tied at three after five.
Manager John Schneider, who has had a mercilessly quick hook this season, should have shaken his starter's hand after the fifth and let him end his night on a high note. Unfortunately, Ryu was sent back out for the sixth to face one of the hottest young hitters in the game, Gunnar Henderson, who promptly took a middle-middle mistake changeup just over the right field fence, ending Ryu's night on a more somber note.
Ryu not at major league speed, yet
Even though the offense didn't give Ryu enough to work with, the results show that perhaps he's not quite up to major league speed yet. His velocity was down from previous years on all four pitches. The fastball touched 91 mph but sat at 89 mph, while the cutter looks like it's the furthest from being ready.
While velocity isn't everything for a pitcher like Ryu, it's still important against major league hitters. The Orioles teed off on the 4-seam fastball and cutter, with average exit velocities of 99.8 mph and 104.9 mph, respectively. If you're wondering if that's bad ... it's definitely not good.
It wasn't all bad news, however. Ryu got five whiffs on 14 swings against his curveball, and the exit velocity on batted balls against his breaking ball and changeup averaged 80.7 mph and 85.5 mph, respectively.
It might have been foolish to imagine we would see the same pitcher as in 2020 and 2021, especially in his first outing since last June. Despite the good feelings and positive vibes of seeing him back in a Blue Jays uniform at Rogers Center, the Jays need Ryu to get up to speed quickly if the six-man rotation is going to help them reach the playoffs.