Ryu Hyun-jin determined to avoid sophomore jinx

January 10, 2014

Dodgers’ Korean left-hander back in Los Angeles

to begin training two weeks earlier than last year

Ryu Hyun-jin is waving his hand to fans and reporter as he departs for Los Angeles on Friday. (Yonhap)

Ryu Hyun-jin is waving his hand to fans and reporter as he departs for Los Angeles on Friday. (Yonhap)

Ryu Hyun-jin is greeted by Korean reporters upon arrival at LAX. (Yonhap)

Ryu Hyun-jin is greeted by Korean reporters upon arrival at LAX. (Yonhap)

Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers said he is determined to avoid a sophomore slump during the upcoming Major League Baseball (MLB) season, as he departed for Los Angeles on Friday.

He has spent the past two months in Korea, resting and making corporate appearances after a wildly successful rookie season.

At Incheon International Airport, Ryu told reporters that he was refreshed and ready to start his training. “My goal is to be as consistent as I was last year, stay in the rotation from start to finish, and to stay healthy,”he said.

Ryu signed a six-year, $36 million contract with the Dodgers in December 2012, and went on to have a rookie season that exceeded most expectations. The left-hander went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA, going at least five innings in 29 of his 30 regular season starts. He helped the Dodgers stay afloat in the early part of the season when they struggled through injuries to key players, before they bounced back and won the National League West division.

He also became the first Korean to win a big league postseason game in October, shutting down the St. Louis Cardinals for seven innings of three-hit ball during the Dodgers’ 3-0 win in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series (NLCS).

Before joining the Dodgers, Ryu had enjoyed seven dominant seasons in South Korea’s Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) for the Hanwha Eagles.

Ryu said he is starting his off-season training about two weeks earlier than last year. He said he felt a little bit out of sync at the start of last year’s spring training and wanted to make sure he gets off to faster start.

Ryu also said he doesn’t want anything to do with any sophomore slump. “I hope to begin the season on a good note right from the first game,” Ryu said. “Hopefully, that will help me win a lot of games. If I stay healthy, I don’t think my stats will change that drastically.”

Asked about the specific target for a number of victories in 2014, Ryu said, “I won’t look too far down the road. I’d first like to get to 10 wins and then go from there.”

The Dodgers boasted one of the strongest rotations in baseball, fronted by a pair of Cy Young Award winners, Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. They are reportedly in the hunt for another big arm, Masahiro Tanaka from Japan.

Tanaka turned heads by going 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the 2013 Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) season for the Rakuten Golden Eagles. Asked if Tanaka’s presence would have any impact on his spot in the rotation, Ryu said he’s not concerned about his order.

“Whenever such a tremendous pitcher can come to our club, it will be a huge plus. I don’t think too much about my turn in the rotation. Last year, I just wanted to be the No. 5 starter, but began the season as the No. 2 guy because of injuries. It’s not that important to me,” he said.

The Dodgers bowed out to the Cardinals in the NLCS last year and Ryu said he wants to take the team to the next level. “Any professional player wants to win the championship,” he said. “It was disappointing to lose in the NLCS last year and hopefully we can all come together and reach the World Series this year.”