Ryu gives Dodgers glimpse of rotation potential
Mattingly likes what he sees from lefty, who is competing for starting job
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- For three innings on Wednesday, Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu showed the kind of stuff that made him five-time strikeout king of the Korea Baseball Organization.
Never mind the fourth inning in which Ryu surrendered a couple of hits and was charged with two runs. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly -- who made the trip to Goodyear, even with most of his starters in Glendale, specifically to get a good look at the Dodgers' $62 million investment -- came away impressed.
"[I liked] the mix. The fastball -- he kind of threw it where he wanted," Mattingly said after the Dodgers' loss to Cleveland. "He flipped that slow curveball in there, he used the slider today, the changeup to get back in counts. I thought he was good."
An affirmation from Mattingly bodes well for Ryu, who is looking to earn a spot in the Dodgers' rotation this spring. Ryu finished with a line of two runs on three hits in three-plus innings. He struck out five and walked one.
The Dodgers' surplus of starting pitchers has been well documented this spring. The fact that all eight have something preventing them from a trip to the Minors -- either a lack of options or, in Ryu's case, a contract clause that requires his own consent for the club to send him down -- doesn't make the decision any easier.
"It's not about that," Ryu said through an interpreter. "It's about me executing my pitches. I'm more satisfied with that -- not so much about the earned runs."
Those earned runs on his line didn't do his outing much justice. Ryu looked very sharp, and he highlighted his day by striking out the side -- all looking -- in the third inning.
"He's got different ways to do it," catcher A.J. Ellis said about Ryu's use of put-away pitches. "The one thing that always stood out to me, especially today in the last couple innings, was his fastball command -- his ability to throw the ball on both sides of the plate."
Given the offseason investment the Dodgers made in Ryu, it would seem he's a favorite for one of the rotation spots, but the club has not committed to that yet.
Should Ryu be worried that his spot in the starting five is in doubt?
"I don't want guys to worry," Mattingly said. "I just want guys to pitch well and show us what they can do as much as anything. It was just tough because we haven't seen this guy pitch."
One of the quirks to Ryu's game is that he doesn't throw bullpen sessions between starts. He never did in Korea, and he doesn't plan on starting now.
That's not exactly the between-starts schedule Mattingly wants for his pitchers. But he has no qualms with Ryu's routine, as long as he's getting hitters out.
"You have a way that you've done things for a long time in baseball," Mattingly said. "But he's done things, too. And he's had success. There's a lot of ways to skin a cat. To me, if he's having success, then I don't want to fight him."
Ryu has been working on his breaking pitches in camp, and they looked good on Wednesday, as he used two of them to polish off hitters in the bottom of the first.
In the second, he ran into a bit of trouble after an error by third baseman Juan Uribe and a four-pitch walk to follow it. But Ryu did a good job in jamming right fielder Matt Carson, who grounded into a 4-6-3 double play. He then got the red-hot Lonnie Chisenhall to fly to right.
After the impressive third inning, Ryu was given a maximum of 10 pitches to get three outs in the fourth. He didn't get any, allowing a double off the very top of the wall to Mark Reynolds and then a sharp single to Yan Gomes before he was removed.
Overall, Ryu said he was far more pleased on Wednesday than he was his last time out, when he surrendered two runs (a two-run homer by Josh Hamilton) on four hits in two innings against the Angels on Friday.
Still, he'd like to have that fourth inning back.
"Everything was all right, satisfactory, but going into the fourth inning, I had 10 pitches left because I was on 50," Ryu said. "I kind of lost focus, wanted to try to finish it within 10 pitches. I felt that I kind of hurried myself up."
Ellis complimented Reynolds for a nice piece of hitting on the double and said he's been very impressed catching Ryu this spring.
"This is a guy who was the best baseball player in his entire country," Ellis said. "He's got all the reason in the world to be confident and to believe in what he's done. Until we see otherwise, from my standpoint as a catcher, we're going to let him do what he needs to do to get ready for the season."