“It Could Be Kikuchi”
The “Korean Monster” Ryu Hyun-jin suffered a major injury in June of last season. At the time, Ryu had been experiencing ups and downs due to forearm pain, and after a medical examination, it was determined that he needed Tommy John surgery. Tommy John surgery is a major procedure that typically requires more than a year of rehabilitation before returning to the mound. For pitchers, it can be life-threatening, which makes Ryu’s Tommy John surgery all the more shocking.
At the time, the news of Ryu’s second Tommy John surgery was met with concern in the local media, and there was a lot of pessimism, especially at a time when Ryu was starting to make a serious comeback. However, the tide began to turn when Ryu lost a whopping 13 kilograms through rehabilitation and pitched three innings of four-hit ball with five strikeouts and one run (one earned) in a minor league start for the Detroit Tigers on May 5.
After getting off to a good start in the rookie league, Ryu’s cruise continued. His pitching remained “steady” as he moved up in the league. On the 10th, Ryu threw 37 pitches in four innings against the New York Yankees’ Single-A affiliate, giving up four hits and no walks with one strikeout, and on the 16th, he threw 66 pitches in five innings against Detroit Triple-A, giving up three hits (one home run), no walks, five strikeouts, and one run (one earned).
As Ryu’s return draws nearer, fans are also excited. “It will be interesting to see what happens from here,” wrote ‘Bluebird Banter,’ a Toronto fan page on SB Nation in the United States. A month ago, the Toronto starting rotation was barely hanging on after Alec Manoa was demoted to the Rookie League. But with Hyun-jin Ryu on the wing, all of a sudden, the starting rotation looks deep,” he enthused.
Ryu started the third inning and went five innings. His innings and pitches are up to a reasonable level. There’s not much left to check now. The only thing that remains is his velocity. In his first rehab start, Ryu topped out at 88 mph (141.6 km/h), but in his last start (on the 16th), he upped his fastball to 89.8 mph (144.5 km/h). But it’s still not enough.
While Ryu is not a “hard-throwing” pitcher, his “average” four-seam fastball was 89.9 mph (144.7 km) in 2021 and 89.3 mph (143.7 km) last year. Currently, Ryu has the highest average velocity of his career. In order to be more competitive, he needs to improve his velocity. For now, Toronto is hoping that Ryu’s velocity will rise a bit more.
Ryu will face the Tampa Bay Rays’ Triple-A Durham Bulls on April 22. Based on what he’s pitched so far, if Ryu doesn’t reveal any issues with his velocity, it’s likely that the Korean Monster’s next start will be in the big leagues after the 22nd. According to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet in Canada, if Ryu throws 80 pitches or more in his 22nd start, “there won’t be much more to see.”
With Ryu’s return looming, Natsuki Une, a former editor-in-chief of Major League Baseball’s Slugger magazine and now a Japanese sportswriter, expressed concern about Yusei Kikuchi’s future. Kikuchi, who signed a three-year, $36 million contract with Toronto prior to last season, is having his best year this year, going 7-3 with a 4.13 ERA. However, he hasn’t been able to consistently maintain his blistering pace from exhibition games and the beginning of the season 토토사이트.
In five starts in June, Kikuchi went 27⅔ innings with a 2.28 ERA, but he struggled in his first start of July, allowing five runs in 4⅓ innings against the Boston Red Sox and four runs (four earned) in five innings against the Chicago White Sox. He followed that up with two runs in 4⅔ innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks on July 17. He didn’t give up many runs, but his jagged pitches showed signs of anxiety.
Natsuki Une wrote a column titled “Does Ryu Hyun-jin’s Return Keep Yusei Kikuchi Out of the Starting Rotation?” on the 21st. Natsuki Une wrote, “Ryu Hyun-jin’s return is imminent. Ryu, who underwent Tommy John surgery last June, made a rehab start this month. He struck out 11 batters and didn’t walk a single one,” and pointed out that Ryu’s rehabilitation went smoothly.
Natsuki Une will likely be removed from the starting rotation upon Ryu’s return.