In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters from last Monday, Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays pitches against the Detroit Tigers in the bottom of the first inning of a major league spring training game at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. (Yonhap)
South Korean baseball fans won't get to sleep in this weekend, with two of their own set to make final appearances in the ongoing major league spring training in the early morning hours.
Ryu Hyun-jin of the Toronto Blue Jays will start against the Philadelphia Phillies at TD Ballpark in Dunedin, Florida, at 7:37 a.m. Saturday (Korean time). It will be his third official spring start, but fifth appearance overall, counting unofficial scrimmages.
The left-hander has built up to 77 pitches and five innings so far and will likely get the pitch count up to 100 against the Phillies.
It will put him on track to start Opening Day on April 1 against the New York Yankees in the Bronx. Though the Blue Jays haven't officially made the announcement, it seems like a foregone conclusion that Ryu, the undisputed staff ace coming off a third-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award voting, will have that honor.
Ryu also had the Opening Day nod in 2020, his first season with the Blue Jays, and in 2019 for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Then in a game starting at 7:05 a.m. Sunday in Seoul, Kim Kwang-hyun of the St. Louis Cardinals will pitch against the Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Florida,
St. Louis manager Mike Shildt said in a Zoom media session Thursday (local time) that Kim will get two to three innings of work, though he didn't specify whether it will come in a start or in a relief appearance.
Kim hasn't pitched since facing the same Marlins on March 8. He went down with a stiff back soon afterward and has only thrown a couple of bullpen sessions and a simulated game since.
Kim has struggled in his second major league spring training, having allowed seven earned runs in three innings on 10 hits and three walks.
Kim began his rookie year in 2020 as the closer before moving into the rotation. Shildt recently announced that Kim will be a starter from the get-go in 2021, despite his injury and missed time in spring training. (Yonhap)