Ryu Hyun-jin reflects on his second season, vows to take better care of his body

October 22, 2014
Los Angeles Dodgers' Kenley Jansen, right, notices much lighter Ryu Hyun-Jin, of South Korea, during spring training baseball practice Sunday, Feb. 9, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Ryu Hyun-jin actually reported to this year’s training camp much lighter than the year before, enough to impress his teammate Kenley Jansen, but it didn’t stop him from making three trips to the disabled list.

(Yonhap) — Coming off an injury-riddled 2014 season, South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers said Tuesday he will try to stay healthier next year in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Ryu, who returned home last week after the Dodgers were eliminated from the National League Division Series (NLDS), went 14-7 with a 3.38 ERA in his second big league season. These numbers easily could have been better had he avoided three trips to the disabled list (DL).

Ryu matched the win total from his rookie season in 2013 despite making four fewer starts, 30 to 26. His ERA this year was slightly higher compared to 2013, when he finished with 3.00.

Ryu said he hopes to pitch in more games next year.

“I’ve had three injuries this year, but at least I didn’t miss as much time as some other players did,” Ryu said at a press conference in Seoul. “I don’t want to go through the same fate next season. I think I am going to have to take care of my body better in the winter. I will start my offseason training earlier than before and focus on preventing injuries.”

Ryu had a strong start to 2014 and enjoyed four scoreless outings out of his first five appearances. Then after a start on April 27, Ryu came down with left shoulder inflammation and was placed on the disabled list for the first time in his big league career. He didn’t start again until May 21.

In mid-August, Ryu headed back to the disabled list with a right hip strain and returned on the final day of that month.

Ryu made two more starts in September before shutting down for the rest of the regular season, as his left shoulder flared up again

In all, he pitched 152 innings this year, 40 fewer innings than a year ago.

“This year, considering the number of starts I made, I didn’t pitch in a lot of innings,” Ryu said. “My objective is to pitch 200 innings next year. I must avoid injuries and pitch deep into games.”

In addition to staying healthy, Ryu said the key will be to throw all of his pitches with good command. He also insisted he won’t add any new pitch to his arsenal but will try to polish up his changeup — his bread and butter.

“I threw a lot of sliders in the second half. I changed my grip and also threw it at different speeds,” he said. “I think I will be fine if I can keep throwing my slider the way I have been. But my changeup wasn’t as sharp this year as last year, and I will try to address that next season.”

When he first joined the Dodgers after seven seasons in South Korea, Ryu turned heads for not throwing in the bullpen in between starts. He said he doesn’t plan to change his routine, saying, “Players all have different ways to prepare for games.”

Ryu often started with five days’ rest in South Korea, but has often had to pitch with four days’ rest in the big leagues. He said he prefers an extra day of rest in between starts, though his routine and preparations don’t necessarily change much.

“I think it’s something I have to get used to,” Ryu said. “I think I will get better as time goes on.”

Over his career, Ryu has gone 11-4 with a 3.20 ERA in 18 starts on five days’ rest, compared to a 10-8 record with a 3.51 ERA on four days’ rest. When he had six days or more in between starts, Ryu has been 7-3 with a 2.48 ERA in 13 starts.

For 2014, however, Ryu has been slightly better on shorter rest. He was 5-4 with a 3.86 on four days’ rest, compared to 4-3 with a 4.53 ERA on five days off in between starts.

Asked if he wanted to win any particular individual award, Ryu said, “Each year, rather than winning individual titles, I’d like to do my job as a starting pitcher.”