Are Ryu Ready?

March 21, 2014

Dodgers’ Korean left-hander to pitch on Saturday night

Encounters his changeup mentor Koo Dae-sung in Australia 

Ryu, left,  was glad to see the man who taught him the changeup, Koo Dae-sung, in Australia. (Yonhap)

Ryu, left, was glad to see the man who taught him the changeup, Koo Dae-sung, in Australia. (Yonhap)

By Lee Kyutae

Ready or not, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin’s second season in the Major League starts on Saturday 7 p.m. PST.

The game is in Australia, and their opponent is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Unfortunately, Ryu didn’t fare all that well against the D-backs in his first year. He went 1-2 with a 4.65 ERA (Earned Run Average) over five starts against the D-backs last year, and no other division opponent tagged him for more runs.

Most of the damage was done by the D-backs’ first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He swung 0.500 (7 for 14) to drive in five runs against the 26-year-old Korean left-hander.

Goldschmidt not only hit a double and a home run against Ryu – he wore out the entire Dodgers’ pitching staff last year. The 26-year-old MVP candidate slugged six home runs to drive in 21 runs against the Dodgers, and needless to say, Ryu and the Dodgers need to do a better job on him.

Ryu’s reunion with 44-year-old “sunbae” left-hander Koo Dae-sung has to help. Ryu saw Koo at the Sydney Cricket Ground earlier this week, and he made it a point to call Koo “sunbae,” a Korean term used to show deference to a senior, instead of “hyung,” meaning older brother.

It’s because Koo is the man who taught Ryu his infamous changeup.

Ryu was a 19-year-old rookie when he met a then-36-year-old Koo as teammates of the Hanwha Eagles.

“When Ryu was a rookie, he used to follow me around, asking me to teach him the changeup. So we started to play catch together, and within 30 minutes, his was almost as good as mine,” Koo laughed. “Ryu just has a great ability to learn and pick things up.”

Koo explained the changeup is a great pitch for Ryu, because the grip is perfect for his small hands.

Koo pitched one scoreless inning for the Australian National team on Thursday against the Dodgers to show he still has it.