Since signing with the Los Angeles Dodgers prior to the 2013 season Hyun-Jin Ryu has battled general shoulder issues. He fell victim to more shoulder trouble in Spring Training and began the 2015 season on the disabled list, eventually undergoing season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.
As the weeks wore on without much information on Ryu’s progress it gradually became evident Ryu’s latest injury was perhaps more severe than his initial bouts with inflammation. While the surgery essentially confirmed that, Ryu revealed shocking news when addressing the media Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
“The first time I got an MRI with the team [two years ago], I knew about the tear,” Ryu said through an interpreter. Although the shoulder operation treated a pre-existing injury, Ryu said the tear didn’t worsen and his preference was to continue pitching with it.
Ryu added he’d never been told by a doctor surgery would be required, nor did he consider it an option before this week. However, the necessity eventually became clear. “I knew that as time was passing by, there wasn’t any better solution [than surgery],” Ryu said. “An earlier decision was better. It was my choice.”
Prior to a decision being made, Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said surgery was an option, but added the matter wasn’t “black or white.” His comments now are more clear as Ryu essentially managed to pitch — and pitch well — with the tear for two seasons.
It perhaps was why Ryu and the Dodgers both expressed confidence in the left-hander making a return at some point this season. Ryu reported to Spring Training with a goal of pitching 200 innings for the first time in his career and backed up his desire by beginning personal workouts before pitchers and catchers descended on Camelback Ranch.
The South Korean native won 14 games in each of his two seasons with the Dodgers, but only threw 152 innings in 2014 compared to 192 in his rookie year. Ryu signed a six-year, $36 million contract.
His deal includes an opt out after the 2017 season only if he pitches at least 400 innings between now and the end of the 2017 season. Otherwise he remains under contract through 2018. “I will try my best,” Ryu said when asked if he would be the same pitcher as before the surgery.
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