“I’ll make sure I give my 100 percent when I pitch at Rogers Centre,” Ryu Hyun-jin, 32, promised to give his 100 percent. The Toronto Blue Jays, which signed Ryu to a four-year, 80-million-dollar deal, has also expressed its expectations for Ryu by giving number 99, which was worn by Canadian hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, to Ryu.
Ryu wore number 15 when he joined the Hanwha Eagles in 2006. When pitcher Koo Dae-sung returned to the team the following year after playing in Japan and the U.S., Ryu had to give number 15 to Koo and wear number 99 instead. The number 99 did not have any significance to Ryu at first but he began to have an attachment to the number given that Hanwha won the Korean Series in 1999.
Ryu picked up 98 wins in his KBO seasons. After making his major league debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013, Ryu allowed two runs in 6 and 1/3 innings to pick up his first Major League win on April 8, 2013. It was his 99th career win, wearing number 99. Despite favorable reviews, Ryu expressed a bit of disappointment, saying that the angle and the speed of his pitches were not as good as they were while he played in the KBO.
Ryu was undoubtedly the best pitcher in the KBO during his seven KBO seasons, but he decided to try and realize his dream of pitching in the majors. There were lots of concerns since no pitcher from the KBO adapted well to the big league. Ryu, however, exceeded expectations by going 14-8 with an ERA of 3.00 in his first MLB season.
Ryu had his ups and downs as well. Pundits said Ryu would not be able to return to the mound when he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Many pitchers have made a successful comeback after receiving an elbow surgery, but few pitchers have regained their pitching form after a shoulder surgery. Ryu made a complete recovery, not only regaining his pitching form but also adding cut fastballs to his repertoire.
Recently attending at the Dong-A Sports Awards, Ryu has extended his congratulations to The Dong-A Ilbo for the 100th anniversary and revealed his plans for the new season. Ryu will give his 100% as well in the New Year. Ryu is scheduled to train in Okinawa, Japan in early January, staying at the same hotel with Kim Kwang-hyun, who will join the St. Louis Cardinals, Jeong Woo-ram, and Song Eun-beom. Ryu and Song are very close since they went to the same high school. Song, Kim, and Jeong played a significant role in making SK the greatest team in the KBO in late 2000s.
For the new season, Ryu needs to overcome many hurdles, such as hitter-friendly home stadium, strong hitters in the American League East, and weak infield defense of the Blue Jays. Whenever he played against tough opponents, Ryu has counteracted with confidence believing that nothing else matters if he pitches well. After overcoming all difficulties, Ryu will try to give his 100 percent again in the new season as Toronto’s starting pitcher.