Blue Jays’ Ryu Hyun-jin shrugs off homer in spring training debut

SEOUL, Toronto Blue Jays' South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin served up a home run in his spring training debut. In other words, it was business as usual.

Ryu gave up a run on a solo home run in two innings of work against the Baltimore Orioles at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, on Friday (local time).

The left-hander has now allowed a home run in three of his past four spring debuts, having also done so in 2020 and 2018. Consider this: Ryu finished 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 2018 and then finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting in the shortened 2020 season with a 5-2 mark and a 2.69 ERA.

Ryu knows spring games don't matter much, and so do the Blue Jays' brass.

"For a first game, things went pretty well. I threw a lot of strikes," Ryu said in his postgame Zoom session. "Though I gave up a home run, it was a mistake on my part. I think the batter put a good swing on it. Overall, it was a good outing for me. Other than that home run, there wasn't any problem at all."

That solo shot came off the bat of Pat Valaika in the top of the second inning. Ryu had worked a clean first inning, needing just nine pitches to retire the side in order with a strikeout, a groundout and a flyout.

After a flyout to open the second inning, Ryu threw a knee-high cutter on an 0-1 count that Valaika took over the center field wall.

Ryu then struck out Chance Sisco. He followed a walk to Ramon Urias by getting Tyler Nevin to fly out to left.

Anthony Kay took over the mound to begin the third.

Ryu noted that his focus during spring training is getting his workload and pitch count up as he nears the start of the regular season on April 1. After making 30 pitches in the game -- 19 of them strikes -- Ryu threw an additional 15 pitches in the bullpen. He said he's ready to go three innings in his next game.

The Blue Jays kept busy in the offseason, surrounding their young position player core with veterans George Springer and Marcus Semien via free agency. Their rotation, though, remains thin behind Ryu. Nate Pearson, their top pitching prospect expected to slot in as No. 2 starter after Ryu, has been sidelined with a groin injury, while the likes of Robbie Ray, Tanner Roark and Steven Mats don't inspire much confidence.

Ryu insisted he feels no additional pressure on his shoulders because, "Whether it's in the rotation or in the bullpen, we have a lot of great pitchers."

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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