Blue Jays ace Ryu under the radar as he prepares for the season his own way

Article content

Before there was a $150-million George Springer signing on with the Blue Jays, there was an $80-million Hyun-Jin Ryu.

While Springer made his Grapefruit League debut in Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Phillies in Dunedin, we haven’t seen or heard much about the south Korean southpaw. Two weeks into training camp, that’s partly by design for the veteran Ryu, who will look to resume his role as ace on a rotation that could use it.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Try refreshing your browser.

Ryu has been getting his work in at the team’s state-of-the-art training complex and is doing it his way. He’ll get his games in as well, but is extremely meticulous about his preparation.

“He has a plan,” Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said. “He knows what he needs to do to get ready and he’s very focused with that plan.”

Between Montoyo, Ryu and pitching coach Pete Walker, a game play for exhibition starts will be crafted including a likely debut at some point this week. And rest assured that neither of the division rival New York Yankees or Baltimore Orioles will see Ryu in Grapefruit League play.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Thumbing through the schedule, there’s a perfect opportunity to do just that, all things being equal and healthy.

Let’s say Ryu makes his spring debut on Thursday against the Tigers, he could then work his way through to opening day on a rough plan that could include March 9 (Phillies), March 15 (Tigers), March 20 (Phillies) and March 26 (Phillies.)

Doing so would be a throwback to the late, great Roy Halladay, who studiously avoided division rivals during the spring. The Yankees could see him at least five times during the season, so no need to get an early look at how he paints those corners.

Ryu has been busy enough at the complex, however, throwing live batting practice sessions on Feb. 28 and Feb. 24, preceded by bullpen work on Feb. 21 and Feb. 18. When he arrived in Dunedin, he had already built up to a 50-pitch bullpen.

Meanwhile, the Jays have been impressed with what they’ve seen from Ryu so far and the comfort level he seems to have heading into his second season with the team.

“He worked hard in the off-season,” Walker said. “He looks like he’s in better shape than he was last year and he was in good shape last year.

“He’s looking to build off of last year. He’s taken more of a leadership role and I think he’s excited to be here with a year under his belt with these guys.”

For Ryu, the focus will be on health, what he hopes will be a benefit from that off-season fitness regimen.

“If I don’t have any issue with my body, I know I can play a full season without any problem,” Ryu said through a team translator earlier in camp. “I never feel any tiredness or any sort of weakness when I’m healthy.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“I’m just going to make sure I stick with my game plan.”

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Try refreshing your browser.

SPRINGER BREAK

Springer eased into exhibition action on Tuesday, leading off the first inning with a line-drive single on the second pitch he faced in the

And the big free agent signee said it was nice to get in action, get a feel for the Blue Jays jersey he’ll wear for the next five years and get on with it.

“It’s fun. It’s exciting to play baseball again,” Springer said on a post-game Zoom from Dunedin. “Honestly (at this point in camp) I’m just trying to hit the ball hard. I want to make sure I’m seeing the ball as well as I can.”

The former Astros star sounds as though he’s becoming increasingly comfortable around his young new teammates.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Try refreshing your browser.

“I want to give a lot of credit to the guys that are in the clubhouse,” Springer said. “I feel very welcomed there. I get to the park every day excited.”

And he’s been impressed with the way some of those young players such as Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette go about their business.

“I’ve learned a lot from watching Vladdy hit and Bo hit and I’m picking their brains to see what they like to do,” Springer said. “A lot of people will say they are young, but I’ll say they are advanced for their age. The talent it takes to play at this level at age 21, age 22? It’s beyond impressive to be in the big leagues that young.”

Montoyo certainly liked seeing Springer hit at leadoff, referencing the good feeling in the dugout when he ripped the second pitch he faced for a hit. Afterwards, the manager sounded like he’s not going to overthink it and run Springer out at the top of his lineup.

Advertisement

Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“I’ve been thinking of lineups the whole time (and) that could be a hint,” Montoyo said. “I like him hitting leadoff. He’s comfortable in that spot.”

AROUND THE BASES

Steven Matz knows better than to read too much into one spring outing, but that doesn’t mean the lefty starter can’t feel good about the two shutout innings he tossed on Tuesday, allowing one hit but striking out three. “He pounded the zone with strikes and good changeups,” Montoyo said following the game, which was called after six innings. “He pitched inside with a good rhythm.” … The notable offensive strike for the Jays was a fourth-inning solo homer from Lourdes Gurriel Jr.. Defensively, shortstop Bichette and Marcus Semien turned a double play … Up next: One of the Jays top young prospect arms, Simeon Woods Richardson, will get the start Wednesday in Tampa as the Jays face the Yankees … Also expected to get his first action as a Jay is Alek Manoah, the Jays 2019 first-round pick.

News Near Sault Ste. Marie

This Week in Flyers