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Hyun Jin Ryu strong in Buffalo

It was Triple-A hitters, but Ryu looked ready to return to the majors

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images

On Saturday night, Hyun-Jin Ryu continued on comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, starting for Buffalo. Scheduled for 4-5 innings with a pitch limit around 65, it went about as well as possible as he went the full innings 5 innings on 66 pitches (46 strikes), allowing a single run on 3 hits with 5 strikeouts and no free passes.

This came on the heels of a complex outs, and then last Sunday a start for Dunedin in which he completely rolled over low-A hitters for the Tampa Yankees, needing just 37 pitches to go 4 shutout innings. He needed just 20 pitches (17 strikes) the first time to face the minimum the first time through the lineup over the first three innings, allowing just one hit, not needing more than 4 pitches for a batter until the last batter he faced struck out looking.

So this yesterday’s start was not only a significant bump up to a more meaningful level of competition, but also had a broadcast to actually get eyes on how Ryu looked. And in this respect, the news is as good as the stat line, as Ryu mostly looked in vintage form, mixing and matching with four offerings to keep hitters completely off-balance while mostly avoiding the middle of the plate.

The one caveat perhaps is that I’ve always found the line between “good Ryu” and “shelled Ryu” very tenuous, that is, the stuff doesn’t look much different one way (unlike many pitchers where it’s clear when they have or don’t have their good stuff). He did hang the change-up over the plate to the second batter who smashed it over the fence for a 400 foot home run.

There was one other fly ball that was hit well to the warning track in right-centre, but that was about it for hard contact. The other two were were an infield squibber, and a one-hopper through the infield. Otherwise, it was mostly routine contact.

Ryu’s change-up and curveball looked very good, and his fastball was effective working off those even though he was basically topping out at 88 MPH, which is still a couple clicks short of where was in 2020-21. That could of course comeback a little more as he gets stronger, or maybe that’s the new normal given he;s a couple years older. He further changed speeds mixing in a cutter ay 83-84.

It will be interesting to see where things proceed from here. Perhaps the Blue Jays will want to stretch him out a little more with further rehab starts, so that he’s ready to step into the rotation. But otherwise, he looked ready to go and should be primed to step in if there was a hole in the major league rotation. A month ago the starting rotation was barely holding together with weekly bullpen games in the wake of Alek Manaoh’s demotion to the complex. With Ryu now in the wings, it suddenly looks to have some depth. At the least, we shouldn’t be seeing Mitch White starting anytime soon.