Like any baseball player going into their second season in the majors, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu looks to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. While last year was his rookie season, the 26-year-old already had a good amount of experience under his belt with the Korean Baseball Association. Despite the initially rough transition, Ryu has adjusted almost seamlessly to his new environment in the Dodgers clubhouse.
In his first season with the Dodgers, Ryu more than proved that he was capable of making an impact in the rotation. As the number three starter behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Grienke, the Korean pitcher went 14-8 in 30 starts with a 3.00 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. With these numbers, the left-hander quickly became one of the best rookies last season. Among NL rookies, he led the pack with 192 innings pitched, was second in wins category and had the third lowest in ERA.
The Korean starter also had an impressive postseason outing in Game 3 of the NLCS. Pitching seven scoreless innings, he helped the Dodgers earn their first win of the series. Additionally, Ryu only missed one start last season due to back stiffness, which proved to not be a lingering factor in his performance. If last year is any indication, the left-hander will hopefully continue to be durable when it comes to his health.
Last off-season, one could say that Ryu was distracted coming to an agreement on his six-year, $36 million contract on top of uprooting his life and moving to America. He even admitted to not being fully-prepared for Spring Training last year as he was often last in conditioning drills and was winded fairly easily. Heading into his second Spring Training with the Dodgers, Ryu is a lot more comfortable. On top of no longer being the new guy in the clubhouse battling a huge language barrier, the 26-year-old arrived at Camelback Ranch in much better shape than last year.
So far in Spring Training, Ryu has had impressive outings that could be attributed to his weight loss. In 11 innings pitched, he has a 2.45 ERA allowing three runs and striking out a total of seven batters. With starter Zack Greinke battling a rightcalf strain this, Ryu will be pitching alongside Clayton Kershaw in the two-game Opening Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Ryu already has a full season of impressive outings under his belt. Despite opposing team’s increased familiarity with the lefty starter, Ryu will hopefully be able to dodge the sophomore slump. Now that he’s adjusted to his initially unfamiliar American environment, the left-hander should look even more comfortable on the mound than he did last year. Looking farther into the 2014 season, Ryu will undoubtedly be a solid contributor in the team’s pursuit of a playoff run.
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