“He did a good job of taking me under his wing,” Alek Manoah and more speak about Hyun Jin Ryu’s impact as a Blue Jay

Photo credit:Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Michael Liu
1 month ago
As spring training continues to roll on, the Toronto Blue Jays are without a familiar face. Back in February, former ace Hyun Jin Ryu inked a 10-year contract to finish his career where it started, with the Hanwha Eagles of the Korean Baseball League.
Perhaps no move signalled the Toronto Blue Jays’ transition from rebuild to contention than the signing of Hyun Jin Ryu. The Korean pitcher featured in the rotation for four years filled with ups and downs. From the 2020 postseason to missing the 2022 season with Tommy John surgery, to coming back and helping stabilize the Jays’ rotation to close out the 2023 season. While Ryu’s tenure didn’t feature the tangible success that most would’ve liked to see, there’s no questioning his impact on this team and the clubhouse.
Take Alek Manoah, for instance, a young pitcher breaking into the majors. Ryu looked after him, never telling him what to do. “He did a good job of taking me under his wing and showing me how it was done instead of telling me,” Manoah said to the Athletic. His really positive energy and fun spirit were always really cool in the clubhouse.”
George Springer echoed many of those sentiments, the World Series winner recognizing just how important a presence like Ryu was needed in the clubhouse. “Anytime you see a guy like that go anywhere, you know that that organization is invested and wants to surround the guys who they have in that locker room with guys like him,” Springer said to the Athletic.
“Obviously, I’m sad he’s gone, but to have a guy like that here, he really led the way and it was an honour to play with him.”
That leadership extended beyond just the field and clubhouse too. “He’s such a veteran guy and done a lot in the game and he always made me, as like a first-year guy, feel extremely welcome,” Jordan Romano said. “Inviting me to the dinners, the team events that he would put on. Usually, it could be for like exclusive guys that had been there a while, but he invited all us young guys, too, and made us feel really welcome and comfortable with the team.”
Of course, the pitching was elite as well. One doesn’t just luck into a 3.27 ERA over 185 career MLB starts, one of the greatest Korean pitchers in the Bigs. Ryu’s command and change of pace flummoxed batters throughout his years, mixing in offspeed in sequences that just froze whoever was in the batter’s box.
Ryu was keen to pass on that experience and knowledge, mentoring the likes of Manoah and others. Not every pitcher can explain the reasoning behind each pitch, and it is invaluable for young arms to have a voice like Ryu’s there to guide and teach them.
So as Ryu returns home to wrap up his career in the KBO, something that has held a deep significance for him, his impact with the Toronto Blue Jays should not be overlooked. The mentorship, the leadership, and the professional presence that he brought will be missed but not forgotten. He was definitely more than just a top-of-the-rotation pitcher at his best – Ryu was the face of this transition into a contending team. And hopefully, using lessons learned from the wily pitcher, they can be more than just a contender.


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