Hyun-Jin Ryu could cap comeback by pitching Dodgers into World Series

first_img How Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling topped the baseball podcast empire “It’s remarkable. It really is,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think you see guys who are a lot more emotional, vocal, but don’t have the same compete as Hyun-Jin. A lot of it is that inner drive and fire and compete. And so many teammates have told me that this guy has ice in his veins, and he’s a big-game pitcher. And the more I’ve gotten to see him execute pitches in big spots, it’s kind of come to fruition.“This year, even with what he went through, he was determined to get back here. … He didn’t like not being a part of the (postseason) roster last year. And that hurt. I know it hurt him. So he was going to do everything he could to force our hand by performing to be in this position that he put himself in.”Ryu’s motivation might be two-pronged. He acknowledged his disappointment in being left off the roster for each of the three playoff rounds last October – his interpreter used the word “bummer” in his translation earlier this month.But Ryu’s original six-year, $36 million contract also expires this year. His performance down the stretch and in the playoffs has done wonders for his market value this winter.“I never doubted myself, whether I could come back the same way that I pitched from the past to now after the surgery,” Ryu said through his interpreter. “Throughout the rehab process, it was pretty much the same. Beginning of the rehab, middle of the rehab, and end of the rehab, I had no doubt in my mind that I could come back and pitch as well as I had in the past.” MILWAUKEE — When Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu made his first appearance in a Dodgers uniform, it was for a conditioning run with the rest of the pitchers on the first day of spring training in 2013.Ryu finished well behind the group alongside Kenley Jansen – who was four months removed from ablation surgery to address an irregular heartbeat. Afterward, Ryu joked about the pace being much faster in America than Korea.That was the least of the physical challenges Ryu would face with the Dodgers.In the five years since, he has had surgery on his pitching shoulder and elbow, causing him to essentially sit out two seasons, and tore a groin muscle partially away from the bone earlier this year. And yet, he will take the ball for Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night at Miller Park pitching the best he has since leaving Korea with a chance to pitch the Dodgers into a second consecutive World Series. He has actually pitched better than before. Although the two-month recovery from his groin injury limited him to 15 starts and 82-1/3 innings during the regular season, Ryu posted his lowest ERA (1.97), WHIP (1.01) and strikeout rate (9.7 per nine innings). He held batters to a .221 average and .622 OPS – career-bests by significant margins.His two playoff starts have built on that – two runs allowed over 11-1/3 innings with 12 strikeouts and no walks. His fastball has enjoyed the playoff stage. Ryu averaged 92.11 mph on his fastball in his starts against the Braves and Brewers, his highest average since the 2014 playoffs.Related Articles Dodgers’ Max Muncy trying to work his way out of slow start Fire danger is on Dave Roberts’ mind as Dodgers head to San Francisco center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error Cody Bellinger homer gives Dodgers their first walkoff win of season Dodgers hit seven home runs, sweep Colorado Rockies “I feel like I’m a similar pitcher from my first couple of years than now,” Ryu said of his post-surgery repertoire. “I guess the only difference is I know more about the league and the players, and having that information and experience under my belt definitely helps me.”That belt might be a little tighter as well. The thick-legged, closet smoker will never be a fitness model. But Roberts attributes Ryu’s stellar performance this year to better health and being “in as good of shape as I’ve ever seen him.”“I think the health is the No. 1 component,” Roberts said. “This past winter, he had a regular offseason where he could prepare for spring training, and he showed that when he started the season, he came out throwing well.“Talking to Hyun-Jin, it was the winter where he could kind of prepare for a season as a regular player instead of going through the rehab and coming into spring training, he was in good shape, was strong. And then it was just the buildup as a regular player, a starting pitcher.”Staff writer Jeff Fletcher contributed to this story.Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, left, believes oft-injured pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is in the best shape of his career this season. He’ll hand the left-hander the ball to start Game 2 of the NLCS on Friday night in Milwaukee. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)last_img read more