Blue Jays’ pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin heads back to U.S. for spring training

February 3, 2021

 Toronto Blue Jays’ South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin left home for the United States on Wednesday, about two weeks prior to the start of the big league club’s spring training in Florida.

Ryu, entering his second season with the Blue Jays, returned to South Korea in October, soon after the team’s postseason elimination, and has been working out here since.

Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin prepares to depart for the United States in preparation for spring training at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Yonhap)
Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin prepares to depart for the United States in preparation for spring training at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Yonhap)
This file photo provided by A-Spec Corp. on Jan. 7, 2021, shows Toronto Blue Jays' pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin (L) training at Kang Chang-hak Baseball Stadium in Seogwipo, Jeju Island. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Toronto Blue Jays’ pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin prepares to depart for the United States in preparation for spring training at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Feb. 3, 2021. (Yonhap)

Ryu had a successful debut season with Toronto in 2020, as he finished third in the American League Cy Young Award race thanks to a 5-2 record and a 2.69 ERA in 12 starts during the truncated, 60-game campaign.

Ryu also grabbed the Warren Spahn Award as the best left-handed pitcher in the majors and was named to the All-MLB Second Team.

Before boarding his Atlanta-bound flight Wednesday at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, 40 kilometers west of Seoul, Ryu said he’ll head straight to Dunedin, Florida, the Blue Jays’ spring training home. Ryu also told reporters: “I’ve thrown a couple of times. Now, it’s time to focus solely on baseball.”

There was no media scrum at the airport, due to COVID-19 distancing guidelines.

Pitchers and catchers for the Blue Jays will likely report to Dunedin by Feb. 16 or 17.

The Blue Jays reached the postseason under an expanded, 16-team format last year, for their first playoff appearance since 2016.

This year, the Blue Jays are trying to qualify for the normal, 10-team postseason and have certainly made moves that sent the message across the major leagues that they mean business.

The Blue Jays landed All-Star center fielder George Springer on a six-year, $150 million contract — the biggest free agent deal in team history — and have also signed former MVP candidate Marcus Semien in free agency to add to their young, talented infield core of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

The Blue Jays also acquired former National League saves leader Kirby Yates. They will likely need more starting pitching depth behind Ryu, but on paper, they have the pieces to contend for a postseason spot in 2021.

Ryu joined the Blue Jays in December 2019 on a four-year, US$80 million contract, becoming the highest-paid pitcher in club history.

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