[OSEN=이상학 기자] As Ryu Hyun-jin (36) aims to return in July, attention is focused on whether Yusei Kikuchi (32) will be able to hold onto the Toronto Blue Jays’ fifth starter’s spot.
MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, highlighted Kikuchi’s performance this season on Aug. 22 (KST). In nine games (46⅓ innings) this season, Kikuchi is 5-1 with a 4.08 ERA and 43 strikeouts.
After signing a three-year, $36 million free agent contract with Toronto before last season, Kikuchi fell short of expectations in his first year, going 6-7 with a 5.19 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 32 games (100⅔ innings). His role changed from starter to reliever midway through the season.
This year, he had a strong April, going 4-0 with a 3.00 ERA and 28 strikeouts in five games (27 innings), but has faltered in May. He is 1-1 with a 5.59 ERA in four games (19 1/3 innings). He’s given up the fifth-most home runs (12) in the league.
Kikuchi said, “I keep trying to attack the zone. Sometimes you do that and you get a home run, but I’m going to look at the data and everything and keep attacking the zone,” Kikuchi said. Aggressively attacking the zone has resulted in a noticeable drop in walks per nine innings, from 5.2 last year to 2.3 this year.
“It’s never black and white,” Toronto manager Ross Atkins said, “but I think you have to pitch with that mindset. It’s much better to be aggressive when you don’t have runners on base.” “Kikuchi is very athletic, very durable. He has the ability to improve and make adjustments.” His four-seam fastball has averaged 95.2 mph (153.2 km/h) this year. His fastball has topped out at 97 mph (156.1 km/h).
However, it’s unclear if Kikuchi will be able to hold down the No. 5 spot for the rest of the season. MLB.com writes, “Ace Hyun-jin Ryu could be a factor once he returns from Tommy John surgery. He’s targeting a July return, and Toronto is optimistic he’ll be throwing to hitters in June.
MLB.com, which also mentioned Rickey Tidman, who is looking to make his major league debut after recovering from a left forearm injury alongside Ryu, said, “Both players are a bit of a bright spot,” adding, “With no starters currently in Triple-A, Toronto’s starting rotation depth is tight. Kikuchi has kept the fifth starter’s spot secure, preventing Toronto from opening a door they didn’t want to open,” and praised the rotation for its performance thus far.토토사이트
Toronto has used a five-man rotation this year with Kevin Gausman (10G, 63IP, 2-3, 3.14), Chris Bassett (9G, 56IP, 5-2, 3.05), Jose Berrios (9G, 52⅔IP, 3-4, 4.61), and Alec Manoa (10G, 50⅔IP, 1-4, 5.15) joining Kikuchi. As bad as Manoa and Berrios are on paper, they’re both pitchers Toronto needs to utilize at all costs, so Kikuchi’s position is the most unsettled once Hyun-Jin Ryu returns.