Toronto Blue Jays left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu underwent Tommy John surgery last summer. The veteran lefty made quite the impact on the Canadian franchise, cementing himself as one of the team’s leaders. After a rougher 2022 season, Hyun-Jin couldn’t find that mix Blue Jays fans have become accustomed to. During a very short 2022 season, Ryu only pitched in twenty-seven innings over six games. The 35-year-old posted a 5.67 earned run average and a 1.33 WHIP after seeing quite the decline in his already low-velocity fastball and not being able to locate his pitches accurately. The left-handed pitcher ranked in the fourth percentile of fastball velocity per Baseballsavant.mlb.com and third percentile in fastball spin, Hyun-Jin’s most used pitch struggled to find its effectiveness last season. The former Dodger used his four-seamer forty-one percent of the time when on the mound for Toronto.
Once it was announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu was going to need surgery, most had a feeling that it was over between Ryu and Toronto. However, on the positive side of things, since Ryu underwent surgery early last year, there’s a growing chance we’ll see the 35-year-old throw some innings for the Blue Jays in 2023. Now it might not be the best we’ve seen from Hyun-Jin, but I’d welcome him back with open arms.
The most likely outcome would be to have Hyun-Jin back near mid to late season. Once the veteran left-hander is cleared to pitch, I’d expect the organization to take its time and work Hyun-Jin up through the affiliate system. It’s still unclear when Ryu will exactly return, but if the 35-year-old is able to make a full recovery. It could help the rotation tremendously, even if he becomes an opener or spot starter. I also wouldn’t mind Ryu coming out of the bullpen when he returns. An extra left-handed option with that much experience could be fun.
My expectations for Hyun-Jin Ryu are quite low this season. However, if Ryu returns or not, he’s already earned my respect. Before Toronto was a cool place to play, it was Hyun-Jin Ryu who broke the barrier. For sure, the 35-year-old was well compensated for coming up North, but there is no denying Ryu’s addition kickstarted the franchise’s competitive stage.
Without Hyun-Jin Ryu’s dominant Covid-19 shortened season, the Blue Jays don’t make the playoffs that year. Ryu brought over so much good, really playing a part in the Toronto Blue Jays rebuild. Honestly, if Hyun-Jin Ryu doesn’t come over that offseason, is it unrealistic to assume the franchise wouldn’t have landed George Springer? It’s a fair question and one that I think could’ve been possible. It’s easy to harp on Ryu nowadays with the contract and recent performance, but he deserves better.
Whether we see Hyun-Jin Ryu pitch in the Majors this year or not, without a doubt, expect to see him around the clubhouse. As a key part of this franchise’s turnaround, Ryu’s experience and relationships with his teammates should spark some good. The 35-year-old will always be one of my favorite players, and the negativity surrounding Hyun-Jin should be put to rest.
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