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Ryu Hyun-jin struggles with command, serves up hard contact in long-awaited return

On the very first pitch in his first big league game in 14 months, Toronto Blue Jays starter Ryu Hyun-jin gave up a double with an exit velocity of 104.1 mph.

That was the recurring theme of Ryu's up-and-down start against the Baltimore Orioles.

Adley Rutschman hit that ringing double on Ryu's first-pitch fastball at Rogers Centre in Toronto on Tuesday (local time). Then No. 2 hitter Ryan Mountcastle hit another double, which left his bat at 110.3 mph.

All told, the South Korean left-hander, making a return from Tommy John surgery, gave up five batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 100 mph. Four had an exit velocity of 99 mph.

Ryu allowed four runs on nine hits in five innings in a 13-3 Blue Jays loss, the last hit being a solo home run by Gunnar Henderson to lead off the top of the sixth. Three other hits went for extra bases.

Perhaps understandably, since it was his first start since June last year, Ryu struggled with his command. His bread-and-butter pitch, his changeup, induced only one whiff out of nine swings.

The last changeup Ryu threw went for a home run by Henderson, who entered this game batting just .200 with one home run in 70 at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

Ryu went to his curveball more often than usual, throwing it 25 percent of the time, but Baltimore hitters feasted on a few of those curveballs left out over the plate.

With his four-seam fastball, Ryu touched 91 mph and averaged 89 mph, slightly below his average from seasons past. Because he has never been a hard thrower, Ryu has to locate his pitches to be effective. When Ryu isn't consistently throwing his fastballs in the 90s and isn't able to command his secondary pitches, that can be a recipe for disaster for the left-hander.

The 36-year-old looked on the bright side, however, saying he proved that he could go at least five innings in a start despite a long injury layoff.

"I didn't have good command of my changeups and breaking balls, but it wasn't a bad outing overall," Ryu said. "I think my velocity will go up by a couple of ticks going forward."

Ryu rued a few changeups that he couldn't locate.

"It's usually the pitch I feel most confident throwing, but I made a lot of mistakes with it," he said. "I went into the sixth inning thinking Henderson would be my last batter. I am really disappointed I couldn't get him out."

Source: Yonhap News Agency