Hyun-jin Ryu impresses in his return to the mound…but his comeback depends on his changeup
- on Aug 02, 2023
Second elbow ligament splicing surgery. A return to the big league mound 426 days after a long rehabilitation. For this narrative alone, Ryu Hyun-jin (35) deserves to be applauded for his efforts and time. The home fans cheered loudly as he walked off the mound, even though he didn’t actually pitch a complete game. Korean baseball fans must have felt the same way.
Ryu took the mound for the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) home game against the Baltimore Orioles at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on April 2 (KST). It was his comeback game after a long rehabilitation. He struggled against a “young powerhouse” Baltimore team that is in first place in the American League (AL) East, the most competitive division in MLB. The result: four runs on nine hits in five innings.먹튀검증
In the top of the first inning, he gave up three straight hits to Adley Rutherford, Ryan Mountcastle, and Anthony Santander, scoring one run, and then an infield grounder to Gunner Henderson one out later. In the second, Ramon Urias led off with a double and Ryan McKenna followed with a sacrifice bunt to put runners on first and third, and two batters later, Rushman singled up the middle.
Through two innings, Ryu’s four-seam fastball hadn’t touched 90 mph (144.8 km/h). But in the third inning, Ryu’s command and command of his pitches improved, as if he had switched gears. He started throwing 90+ mph fastballs and showed his signature pinpoint delivery. There were no more runs until the fifth inning.
It wasn’t a clean finish. He took the mound again in the top of the sixth, but a five-pitch changeup to Henderson was hit hard and fell inside the right-field fence. It was the fourth run of the game, and a walk-off home run that blew a 3-3 lead. Ryu came off the mound after the play.
Toronto’s bullpen then collapsed, giving up nine more runs and falling to 3-13. Ryu was the losing pitcher.
Ryu threw only five pitches that day, all of which were cut fastballs (cutters), his main weapon in the 2019-2020 season when he was in the race for the Cy Young Award. The fastballs that didn’t have any velocity were batted balls in the first and second innings.
But in the third inning after he warmed up, he was as solid as he was before the injury. He got Austin Hayes to fly out to center with the bases loaded and then struck out Henderson on an outside (lefty) fastball. After giving up a leadoff single again in the fourth, he retired the next three batters. In the fifth, he allowed a leadoff single and a walk to Mountcastle and Santander, respectively, but got Hayes back to retire the side.
The sixth inning was the problem. Three runs in five innings was good considering it was a comeback game. But in the sixth, he gave up a leadoff homer to blow a 3-3 tie. I was disappointed. First and foremost, his changeup went right to the center of the strike zone.
“It was meaningful to get to the sixth inning, and my (fastball) velocity can go up,” Ryu said after the game. Ryu, who underwent labrum repair surgery on his left shoulder in 2015 and was sidelined for an extended period of time, underwent elbow ligament reconstruction in June last year for the second time since 2004, when he was a high school sophomore. He risked his career to undergo shoulder surgery, and after his recovery, he became a two-time Cy Young Award nominee with a stronger performance. This time around, he’s rehabbed well and is back on the mound in the big leagues.
Of course, there are areas where he needs to improve. His changeup, the main weapon that made him the pitcher he is today, was very bad today. Against Santander at first and third in the first inning, and against Urias as the leadoff hitter in the second inning, the changeup was driven up the middle. The home run in the top of the sixth was also a changeup.
After the third inning, the Ryu-Danny Jensen combination switched to a curveball instead of a changeup. But even that didn’t work against them after the third inning. This was the case in the top of the third inning against Santander. It was as if he was expecting a curveball, not a changeup, as the deciding pitch, and it was perfectly timed and hit to left field. It didn’t help that his average fastball-changeup velocity differential wasn’t as high as it had been in the past. In the sixth inning, Ryu was hit by a changeup to leadoff hitter Henderson.
The key to his next start will be his changeup. Even with the increased use of his cutter, Ryu’s first pitch is still his changeup. He doesn’t have as many curveballs as he does changeups. He’s had a solid comeback, but he’ll need to show results in the future to get into the top five in Toronto’s six-man rotation. He needs a changeup with adequate separation from his fastball, and a changeup with a perfect delivery that sits on the borderline like it used to.