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Ex-Toronto reliever believes Ryu Hyun-jin will be successful with Blue Jays

All Headlines 13:42 January 06, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- During this baseball offseason, South Korean veteran reliever Oh Seung-hwan found himself uniquely qualified to offer advice to two countrymen who will play in major league cities where Oh has pitched before.

First, it was left-hander Kim Kwang-hyun, who left the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, for whom Oh pitched from 2016 to 2017. Then former Los Angeles Dodgers starter Ryu Hyun-jin joined the Toronto Blue Jays, where Oh spent the first half of the 2018 season before being dealt to the Colorado Rockies.

Oh had earlier predicted success for Kim in St. Louis. And he also believes Ryu will make a seamless transition from the Dodgers to the Blue Jays.

This file photo from Dec. 4, 2018, shows South Korean pitchers Oh Seung-hwan (L) and Ryu Hyun-jin standing side by side after receiving Special Achievement Awards at a local baseball awards ceremony in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Ryu agreed to a four-year deal worth US$80 million, after leading Major League Baseball (MLB) with a 2.32 ERA in 2019.

Ryu called the pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium his home for seven years, and he will be moving into Rogers Centre, one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the majors. That the Jays will be facing the vaunted lineups of the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox 19 times each in the American League East also doesn't seem to help Ryu's chances of replicating his past success.

Ryu is a career 54-33 with a 2.98 ERA in 125 starts. He'll likely be the Jays' new No. 1 starter, given his credentials and the team's financial commitment.

And Oh said Monday that he doesn't agree with the prevailing view that Ryu's numbers will take a hit pitching against AL East mashers.

"Ryu Hyun-jin has a great changeup and throws other breaking balls really well," Oh said. "Most of the AL hitters I faced had huge swings, and if Hyun-jin can continue to work the hitters with his smarts and guile, he should have no problem at all."

In 48 games with the Jays in 2018, Oh went 4-3 with two saves and a 2.68 ERA. He had 55 strikeouts against 10 walks in 47 innings.

That year, Oh didn't allow any earned runs against three of the four AL East rivals -- the Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles -- with 15 shutout innings pitched with 16 strikeouts. The Yankees scored three earned runs in 7 1/3 innings off the South Korean right-hander.

In this Getty Images file photo from July 2, 2018, Oh Seung-hwan, then of the Toronto Blue Jays, pitches against the Detroit Tigers in the top of the 10th inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Rogers Centre in Toronto. (Yonhap)

Ryu has faced both the Yankees and the Red Sox during interleague play. He has lost both of his starts against the Yankees and has an 8.71 ERA across 10 1/3 innings. He has also faced the Red Sox twice, going 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 12 innings.

Oh said the sample size is still very small and added, "Once Hyun-jin breaks down those AL East hitters, it'll be a much different story."

The Blue Jays are the only Canadian team in the majors, meaning every road trip for the club will be across the border. Having to go through customs so often can be cumbersome for athletes, and it has apparently discouraged athletes from signing with Toronto teams.

Oh admitted traveling can be difficult, but it was nothing he couldn't handle.

"There are a lot of Korean people living in Toronto, and it can be really helpful," Oh said. "I don't think life in Toronto will be that much different from the one in Los Angeles."

Oh offered Ryu some practical advice, warning him against notorious traffic jams in downtown Toronto and recommending Ryu find a place near Rogers Centre in the southern part of the city.

Ryu would do well to learn from an incident involving former Toronto Maple Leafs hockey player Mikhail Grabovski during his time in Canada.

Stuck in a traffic jam in downtown Toronto on a game day, the Belarusian forward abandoned his car in the middle of the road and ran two blocks to get to Scotiabank Arena, so he could make it to the rink on time. The Leafs' veteran equipment manager Bobby Hastings was dispatched to retrieve Grabovski's car afterward.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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