(Photo Credit: AP/Yonhap News)
While many fans of the Dodgers aren’t overwhelmingly optimistic about a productive return, pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu seems to be determined to prove his critics otherwise, as the 29-year-old southpaw will head to Japan this weekend to start a three-week long rehabbing endeavor before the beginning of MLB spring training.
According to his representatives in Seoul, Ryu will depart for Okinawa on Friday to set up camp with his former Korea Baseball Organization teammate, righty Jang Min-jae of the Hanwha Eagles.
“Ryu will be working out on his own for three weeks,” his agency said. “He wants to get into better form before leaving for Arizona in late January.”
After missing all of 2015 recovering from shoulder surgery, Ryu was initially scheduled to return during 2016 spring camp, but the injury never mended properly. Following numerous unsuccessful throwing programs, he finally began to throw hard late in the summer and surprisingly made a big league start against the Padres on July 7, when he surrendered six runs on eight hits and two walks in 4-2/3 innings pitched.
Elbow soreness not long after his return to the mound ultimately led to an arthroscopic debridement procedure, which would eventually shut him down for the remainder of the 2016 season.
Several weeks ago, Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi told reporters that while the Dodgers aren’t depending on Ryu’s return straight away, he would be in the rotation if he’s throwing well and if his mechanics are in good order.
“In the planning process, we can’t plan on him to be our No. 3 starter or anything like that, but if he’s healthy, he’s going to be in our rotation,” Zaidi said.
Ryu, who was believed to be troubled by his shoulder even before his major league career began, signed a six-year, $36 million contract before the onset of the 2013 season, and has compiled a 28-16 record with a 3.28 ERA and a 2.99 FIP with 297 strikeouts in 348-2/3 innings over two full campaigns in the bigs. The native of South Korea finished fourth in the 2013 NL Rookie of the Year voting behind Jose Fernandez of the Marlins, teammate Yasiel Puig and Shelby Miller of the Cardinals.
“If healthy, he’s still one of the top starting pitchers in the NL,” Zaidi added. “But he’s been through a lot physically since he was at that point. He never got quite back to that level in terms of the quality of stuff and velocity. He was still ramping up before he had his setbacks.”
President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman concurred that Ryu is headed in the right direction.
“Just checking in on him, it sounds like the arrow is pointing up. He’s been working extremely hard during the offseason,” Friedman said recently. “He wants to get back out there every fifth day to help us win games in 2017.”
Dodgers’ pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring camp in Glendale on February 15.