Hyun-Jin Ryu had become an afterthought.
Ryu departed for Japan two weeks before spring training. There he continued his rehab, determined to enter March healthy. He told the Orange County Register his goal was to re-take his rotation spot. Ryu made one start in the last two seasons, yet his confidence held firm.
It wasn’t a promising start for Ryu. His velocity sat around 84-86 mph in his first bullpen session. Andrew Friedman said anything the franchise gets from Ryu would be a “boon.” The team remained optimistic and monitored Ryu’s arm.
But when the games rolled around, Ryu flipped the switch. He pitched two scoreless innings in his debut against the Angels. He had a consistent, impressive spring from there. With every start it became more apparent the comeback was real.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 11, 2017
Then there was the competition aspect. Brandon McCarthy and Alex Wood were the reported favorites to follow Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill. Scott Kazmir dropped off with injuries, as did Brock Stewart. A realization formed that Ryu only had to top one of Wood or McCarthy to win a starting job.
Ryu finished March with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings. He appeared in only four games, but made those count. His showings prompted Dave Roberts to admit the team is better with Ryu in the rotation.
Hyun-Jin Ryu has secured a rotation spot, Dave Roberts announces. https://t.co/SBghJPzhzC
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) March 28, 2017
Roberts announced Ryu as a rotation-lock, bringing the end to his rehab, and the official start to his comeback. It won’t be an easy start for Ryu, however; his first two foes: Colorado and the Chicago Cubs.
Hyun-Jin Ryu's first two outings, if he stays slotted fifth.
1. On the road in Denver.
2. On the road at Wrigley.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) March 29, 2017
Ryu will be welcomed back to the show quickly. He’s already overcome the odds in March – now it’s time to see if he can do it in April and beyond.