‘Korean Monster’ Ryu Hyun-jin (Toronto Blue Jays) broke the record for the oldest Korean pitcher in the major leagues to win.
Ryu Hyun-jin started the 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) home game against the Chicago Cubs at Rogers Center in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on the 14th (Korea Standard Time) and threw five innings and was blocked with two hits, two walks, three strikeouts and two runs (no earned run).
Thanks to Ryu Hyun-jin’s good pitching, Toronto won 11-4 and escaped its third straight loss. Ryu Hyun-jin, who returned to the big league mound 13 months after undergoing elbow surgery, won a valuable victory in his third appearance.
It has been 444 days since Hyunjin earned a victory in the big leagues on May 27 last year against the Los Angeles Angels with 6 hits and 2 runs in 5 innings. The number of wins in the big leagues, which had stopped at 75 wins, increased to 76 wins (46 losses, 1 save) by adding one win after a long wait.
In particular, Ryu Hyun-jin’s victory on this day is meaningful because he rewrote the record for the oldest win in the Korean Big League. Born on March 25, 1987, Ryu Hyun-jin won a major league starter at the age of 36 years, 4 months and 20 days.
Previously, the record for the oldest winning starter was held by Park Chan-ho, the “Korean Express”. On May 13, 2009, while playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, Park Chan-ho won a start against the Los Angeles Dodgers (6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs). At the time, he was 35 years, 10 months and 13 days old. Ryu Hyun-jin surpassed Park Chan-ho’s record by about six months.
Ryu Hyun-jin is the third Korean to become a winning pitcher in the major leagues after the age of 36 after Park Chan-ho and Oh Seung-hwan. However, Ryu Hyun-jin is the only starting winner.
It was not an easy process for Ryu Hyun-jin. On June 19 of last year, he had to have a 13-month hiatus after undergoing surgery to joint ligaments in his left elbow. After going through a tough rehabilitation process, he made his big league comeback against the Baltimore Orioles on August 2 of this year.
Even on the big league mound, it wasn’t smooth sailing. In his first appearance, against Baltimore, he gave up 4 runs on 9 hits in 5 innings, becoming the losing pitcher. Watching Ryu Hyun-jin allow hits to opponents, the question mark about his comeback grew bigger and bigger.
In his second appearance against the Cleveland Guardians on the 8th, he continued his perfect pitch without giving up a single hit until the fourth inning. However, at the bottom of the 4th inning, he was hit on the inside of his right knee by a strong batted ball at 157 km/h by opponent batter Oscar Gonzalez with second out and first base and was replaced.
Another major injury was feared, and fortunately, there was no major abnormality in the knee, and Ryu Hyun-jin was able to pitch as scheduled on the day, and eventually won his first win (one loss) of the season in his third appearance after surgery..
For your information, Park Chan-ho also has a record of winning the big league, the oldest Korean player, regardless of starting or saving. On October 2, 2010, his last appearance in the big league, he pitched as a relief pitcher against the Florida Marlins for the Pittsburgh Pirates, achieving 124 wins, the most as an Asian pitcher. Park Chan-ho was 37 years, 3 months and 2 days old.
In order for Ryu Hyun-jin to surpass Park Chan-ho’s record of winning the Korean big league, he must remain in the big league and maintain good performance next season, which he can aim for if he continues the same pace with a healthy body.