Jae-Kuk Ryu (류제국)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 220 lbs.
- High School Duk Soo High School
- Debut May 14, 2006
- Final Game April 9, 2008
- Born May 30, 1983 in Choon Chung Do, South Korea
In his last start in high school, Jae-Kuk Ryu fanned 20 batters, a school record. He was signed by scout Leon Lee for the Chicago Cubs as an amateur free agent in 2001 for $1.6 million. He began his professional career that summer with the AZL Cubs (1-0, 0.61, 20 K in 14 2/3 IP, .196 opponent average). In 2002, Ryu split the season between the Boise Hawks (6-1, 3.57, 56 K in 53 IP) and the Lansing Lugnuts (1-2, 7.11, 21 K in 19 innings). Baseball America named him the #5 prospect in the Northwest League.
In his age 20 season, Jae-Kuk spent time with Lansing (6-1, 1.75), the Daytona Cubs (0-1, 3.05) and the West Tenn Diamond Jaxx (2-5, 5.43). Baseball America named him the #12 prospect in the Midwest League. He hit an osprey in Daytona Beach, FL and was charged with a second-degree misdemeanor by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. It was not a Dave Winfield-style error - Ryu had thrown several balls at the osprey. In 2004, the South Korean right-hander was with West Tenn (1-0, 2.95), Boise (0-2, 2.57) and the Iowa Cubs (4 runs in 2/3 of an inning), making it to AAA. He missed significant time due to a sore elbow.
Back in form in 2005, Ryu returned to the Diamond Jaxx and went 11-8 with a 3.34 ERA. He led the Southern League with 170 innings pitched and was 7th in the SL in ERA. Jae-kuk spent most of 2006 with the Iowa Cubs, going 8-8 with a 3.23 ERA and was 0-1 with a 8.40 ERA in his major league debut for the 2006 Cubs. He finished sixth in the Pacific Coast League in ERA. He made the World team in the 2006 Futures Game but did not pitch.
In February of 2007, Ryu was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for Gregory Reinhard and Andrew Lopez. He was 1-2 with a 7.33 ERA in 17 games for the 2007 Devil Rays and 5-4 with a 4.04 ERA in 14 starts for the Durham Bulls that year.
Ryu was slated to start game two of the 2007 Asian Championship against Japan but manager Kyung-moon Kim swapped him with Ki-joo Han. The move drew criticism from Japan, which cited a gentleman's agreement not to change lineups at the last minute. Ryu tossed five shutout innings in game three against the Philippines, getting the win.
He pitched 1 1/3 shutout innings for the 2008 Rays to end his major league career. He was 1-2 with a 4.38 ERA that summer for Durham. He finished his MLB career 1-3 with a 7.49 ERA. He did not pitch professionally again until 2013, missing time to injury and mandatory military service. Signing with the LG Twins, he began the 2013 KBO season 6-2 with a 4.04 ERA.
Main sources: 2002-2006 Baseball Almanacs