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Ryu Hyun-jin tries for comeback win, this time with ‘100-mile-per-hour prospect’ on the other side… A clash of strength and skills

After undergoing Tommy John surgery to reconstruct ligaments in his elbow, 메이저놀이터 Ryu Hyun-jin (36, Toronto) has made an emotional return to the major leagues and is now in full swing. He’s looking for his first win of the season, and his first win since returning from injury.

Ryu made his first major league start in 426 days at home against Baltimore on Feb. 2, and it was a relatively uneventful outing. On the surface, the result doesn’t look good: four runs on nine hits, including one home run, in five innings. His hard-hit rate was also high. However, it was his first start since returning from the disabled list and he proved that he was healthy.

He gave up three runs in the first and second innings, when he was really nervous and not feeling it, but from the third through the fifth innings, he found his groove and finished the game on a high note. His four-seam fastball, which was in the low 80s at the start of the game, consistently hit 90 mph (145 km/h) or higher after the third inning. “I think my velocity can go up a little bit more,” Ryu said after the game.

It was also encouraging to see that Ryu’s pitches looked more and more like his own. Despite a lack of feel for his cut fastball (cutter) and his primary changeup, he was able to keep the Baltimore offense at bay with his aggressive four-seam battles and big drop-off curveball. He’s still a long way from finding his feel, but it was enough to show that he’s on the right track.

As such, it’s very likely that Ryu will start against Cleveland at 8:10 a.m. ET at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio. If he feels fine, he should be in the six-man rotation. Cleveland is in second place in the American League Central with a 54-57 record after six games. They are 3.5 games back of first place Minnesota, so they are not ready to give up on the postseason just yet. Expect them to go all out in the series against Toronto.

Williams has a powerful fastball that can reach 100 miles per hour.

Jose Ramirez is Cleveland’s best hitter.

Cleveland announced its starters early. It’s right-hander Gavin Williams, 24. Williams is a top prospect that Cleveland drafted and pampered with great expectations. He’s immediately the No. 1 prospect in Cleveland’s 2023 class according to Baseball America and Major League Pipeline.

Williams is known for his pitching prowess, including back-to-back no-hitters in high school. He was a 30th-round pick of Tampa Bay in the 2017 First-Year Player Draft, but chose to go unsigned and continue his college career. In college, he made a name for himself as one of the best pitchers on the collegiate scene, especially in his senior year, earning Cleveland’s first-round (23rd overall) pick in the 2021 First-Year Player Draft. His contract was worth $2.25 million.

Taking it slow, Williams lived up to the organization’s expectations and made his major league debut in 2023. In eight games this year, he’s 1-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 42⅔ innings pitched. His batting average (.232) and walks allowed per inning (WHIP‧1.34) are not bad either. While he has a bit of a wobble with his fastball, his pitches are considered to be good enough to be used at the major league level. In his last outing, he gave up two runs in five innings against Houston on February 2.

Williams’ biggest strength is his fastball. His fastball has already topped 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) this year. His average velocity is around 95.5 mph (153.7 km/h). He has the ability to battle right-handed batters with his fastball and induce swings with his high fastball. He throws a slider, curveball, and changeup. He has a high percentage of sliders and curveballs, which he uses as his deciding pitches. In fact, his slider has a .219 BABIP this year and his curve has a .192 BABIP.

He has a classic starting pitcher’s mix of pitches, with a powerful fastball, a slider that drops outside to righties, and a true curveball that sits almost 20 mph above his fastball. His command is key, but he also has good command of his pitches, which helps keep his long ball rate low. His batted ball velocity is in the top 11% in the majors this season, and he’s done a good job of suppressing heart and barrel balls. He should have a good matchup with the high-powered Toronto offense.

This is the opposite of Ryu, who is more of a finesse pitcher than a power pitcher. Ryu doesn’t have a fastball, but he does have a very good command, allowing just 1.99 walks per nine innings in the major leagues. He’s at the opposite end of the spectrum from Williams. It will be interesting to see if Hyun-jin Ryu can keep the tough Cleveland offense in check and get the win. Ryu has been strong in three career starts against Cleveland, going 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA. This will be his second start at Progressive Field.

Hyun-jin Ryu has performed well in three career games against Cleveland.

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