TORONTO -- Hyun Jin Ryu has been placed on the 10-day IL with neck tightness, the Blue Jays announced Sunday, which comes at a difficult time for the struggling left-hander as his club fights for an AL Wild Card spot.
Ryu is coming off another rough outing in Friday’s 7-3 loss to the Twins when he allowed five runs over just two innings, including a pair of home runs. In 19 starts since the beginning of June, Ryu owns a 5.33 ERA, and over the nine starts he’s made since the first of August, that number shoots up to 7.21.
“It wasn’t something he felt while he was pitching [Friday],” general manager Ross Atkins explained. “He woke up the next day with significant tightness, and it looks like it’s a mild strain. We decided not to push through at this point and take the opportunity to have it get completely out of there.”
Atkins added that this is not connected to the forearm issue that Ryu felt two starts ago in New York.
Ryu’s struggles aren’t a problem that the Blue Jays expected to have coming into the season, when Ryu was entrenched as their ace and coming off a 2.69 ERA in 2020, good for a third-place finish in AL Cy Young voting. The emergence of Robbie Ray as a 2021 AL Cy Young candidate lessens the blow, of course, along with the acquisition of José Berríos and the emergence of rookie Alek Manoah. Steven Matz has been excellent on the back end of the rotation, but Ryu’s injury means Toronto will need to fill at least one start.
“Ideally, he’s just missing a start. That’s ideal,” Atkins said. “We’ll go day to day at this point.”
Ross Stripling will “very likely be a big piece of that solution,” Atkins said, after spending most of his season in the rotation before transitioning into the bullpen recently following an IL stint. Stripling is coming off three innings of relief on 45 pitches against the Twins on Friday, so he’s stretched out enough and would be on schedule to pitch Wednesday against Tampa Bay.
Thomas Hatch is another option for the Blue Jays, either to make a traditional start or piggyback with Stripling, depending on how Toronto’s bullpen looks by Wednesday. Back in February, Hatch had a shot at making the Opening Day rotation after impressing as a rookie in 2020. Elbow inflammation delayed his season, though, and Hatch has made just two MLB starts, most recently against the Orioles on Sept. 11 when he held Baltimore to one run over four innings.
The Blue Jays also have an off-day next Monday, Sept. 27, but their rotation is already aligned to have Ray available for a potential Wild Card Game. There’s still hope that Ryu returns, makes a necessary adjustment to rediscover his control and contributes to the club’s postseason run, but his injury is yet another obstacle in what’s been an unexpectedly challenging season for one of baseball’s best left-handers in recent years.