Former Toronto manager Charlie Montoyo often used the phrase “vintage” whenever the team’s then-ace, Ryu Hyun-jin, 36, pitched well. It’s the highest form of praise. So much so that the Toronto media has taken to using it whenever Ryu pitches well.스포츠토토

We haven’t seen it in a while. That’s because Ryu was off the field. In June 2022, Ryu underwent Tommy John surgery to reconstruct his elbow ligaments. He was unable to overcome the elbow pain that had been bothering him recently. Considering that the rehabilitation period for Tommy John surgery is typically 14 to 18 months, it’s no wonder there were concerns that Ryu’s Toronto career might be over.

But after working hard and minimising his rehab time as much as possible, Ryu is slowly getting back to his old self. In an emotional comeback start against Baltimore on the 2nd, Ryu gave up four runs in five innings. On the surface, it wasn’t a great performance, but three of the four runs came in the first and second innings, when the tension wasn’t quite there, and the third and fifth innings were when he settled down and cooked the Baltimore offence.

Then on the 8th, against Cleveland, he proved that he was slowly getting back on track with four scoreless innings of one-hit ball, striking out two. He didn’t make it to the fifth inning after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning, but he threw just 52 pitches over the four innings. It was encouraging to see that he was slowly getting the feel for his change-up, which hadn’t been there in the first game.

The knee bruise caught everyone by surprise, but we’re glad it wasn’t a major injury. Toronto manager John Schneider also expressed relief at Ryu’s condition and praised his pitches. The local media and broadcasters were equally impressed, saying that “vintage Ryu” was back.

“Ryu seems to be finding his own routine,” Sportsnet, Toronto’s main broadcaster, said before Ryu went down with the injury, adding, “He looked like vintage Ryu today.”

Ryu starts against the Cubs on the 14th.

Ryu’s shoulders weighed down by Manoa’s move to the minors

With Toronto in third place in the American League East, chasing first and second place, and in the thick of the wild card race, Ryu’s return to form was crucial. He must be surprised and pleased that he is finding his groove after just two games, despite a year-and-a-half absence.

Ryu’s shoulders were even heavier. Toronto used Hyun-jin Ryu three times during the 17-game road trip to create a temporary six-man rotation to give the five starters (Kevin Gausman, Jose Berrios, Yusei Kikuchi, Chris Bassett, and Alec Manoa) an extra day of rest after pitching so heavily on such a demanding schedule. But after the Cubs game on the 14th, the 17-game series is over. There’s no reason to stick with the six-man rotation any longer. It would be a waste of roster space.

We’re missing a player. It’s right-hander Alec Manoada, who went from an American League Cy Young Award candidate last year to an abject failure this year. After a rebalancing stint in the rookie facility and a promotion back up, he couldn’t find his groove, so Toronto drew the knife again. On the 11th, they sent him back down to the minors to make adjustments. Given the timing and Toronto’s rotation, some might argue that this is more of a long-term move for next year and beyond than this year.

What’s clear is that Ryu is now a regular starter. He has to do Manoa’s job. His performance on the 14th against the Chicago Cubs is also important. Ryu is a veteran with a lot to prove throughout his career, but proving that he has the ability to overcome the after-effects of elbow surgery is another matter.

As he makes his third start at the familiar Rogers Centre, the Cubs are not a bad memory for Ryu. In four career starts, he’s 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA. But those are old records. He hasn’t faced the Cubs since his trade to Toronto, which means it’s been a long time. As a result, few of the Cubs hitters I faced back then are still around. It’s like facing a new team.

He doesn’t live and die by his fastball, but we’ll have to see how much of it has returned. Ryu at 90 mph and Ryu at 88 mph used to produce very different results. It will be interesting to see how his changeup and curveball combine, as well as how sharp his cutter has become. Ryu’s last major league win came against the Los Angeles Angels on 27 May 2022.

Ryu Hyun-jin ⓒYonhap/AP

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