Toronto Blue Jays starter Ryu Hyun-jin has jumped over the latest hurdle on his road back from last year's elbow surgery, tossing another solid outing in the minors.
Ryu went six innings for Triple-A Buffalo Bisons against the Syracuse Mets in Syracuse, New York, on Friday (local time), giving up two runs on three hits. Ryu struck out five and walked one.
Two of the three hits went for home runs, while Ryu threw 85 pitches, the most he had thrown during his injury recovery. Ryu touched 90.8 miles per hour (mph) with his fastball and averaged 88.3 mph with that pitch. In his previous Triple-A game last Saturday, Ryu's fastball topped out at 89.3 mph, with an average velocity of 87.6 mph.
Of those 85 pitches, 58 were strikes. Ryu threw 39 fastballs, 23 changeups, 13 cutters and 10 curveballs.
Those encouraging numbers point to Ryu's imminent return to the big league rotation. The 36-year-old left-hander underwent Tommy John surgery to repair elbow ligament damage in June last year and could be back as early as the end of July.
He is in the final year of his four-year, US$80 million contract with the Blue Jays.
Ryu worked around his own throwing error in the bottom of the first inning with a double play ball and a groundout. He struck out the first two batters of the clean second inning.
He erased a leadoff single with another double play ball in the third inning, and ended up retiring the side with just eight pitches.
He repeated that feat in the fourth, needing only eight pitches to get two groundouts and one flyout.
Both of the home runs came in the fifth inning -- a solo shot by Jonathan Arauz and another solo blast by Jose Peraza.
Ryu put up a zero in the sixth inning, and with more than 80 pitches in the bag, he was removed before the start of the seventh.
The Blue Jays couldn't have Ryu back fast enough, as their starting pitching depth has been tested of late.
They had the good fortune of having all five starters stay healthy, but their Opening Day starter, Alek Manoah, was sent down to the minors last month to address unexpected woes. The Blue Jays, without a viable alternative, resorted to using reliever Trevor Richards as an opener on multiple occasions.
Manoah has since returned but has had mixed results so far. Another key starter, Kevin Gausmann, dealt with injury coming out of the All-Star break and missed a turn in the rotation.
Once Ryu is back in the mix, the Blue Jays may opt to go with a six-man rotation to go through the gauntlet of an upcoming 17-games-in-17-days stretch.
Source: Yonhap News Agency