With this marking a second consecutive Spring Training in which Hyun-Jin Ryu can solely focus on pitching and not working his way back from injury, the left-hander is using the opportunity to experiment with a slider.
He made the decision after watching other pitchers excel with the pitch, and in particular drawing inspiration from Korean Baseball Organization hurler Suk-min Yoon. The right-hander has battled injuries of late but was a former star in the KBO, and also spent one season with the Baltimore Orioles.
“His grip is kind of different from the generic slider, so it’s more difficult (for me),” Ryu said through a translator. “It may be because I have smaller hands than other pitchers. You don’t really put your hands on any of the seams, so that’s kind of difficult for me.”
Ryu acknowledged there’s parallels between Yoon’s slider grip and that of Sandy Koufax when he threw a curveball by burying it in the wedge of his hand.
Ryu did not uncork the slider against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in a quick first inning of his 2019 debut. He will continue to explore possibly incorporating in his arsenal.
“Having more pitches in my repertoire is always good when you’re facing Major Leaguers. That’s the reason I’m tinkering with it now,” Ryu said. “All I can say is I’m working on it at the moment, so I’m not even sure if it’s actually going to take place in the regular season.
“That’s definitely a very good pitch to have. But I don’t think I can throw that slider as good as some of my other off-speed pitches. Maybe more towards the end of Spring Training I’ll have a better idea if that can be added to my pitch repertoire.”
Ryu threw a changeup 18.6 percent of the time last season, which easily set a career high.