Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu says he’s confident that he can finally return to health in 2017, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reports. The Korean hurler has been beset by injuries over the past two years, most recently going under the knife for an elbow debridement.
“Right now, I’d say I am in better shape than I normally would be at the start of spring training,” said Ryu. “I threw four bullpen sessions while training in Japan. I have no pain at the moment.”
With a long list of rotation options on the depth chart, the Dodgers aren’t necessarily relying on a return for Ryu. But a return to form this spring might pose a welcome problem, and Ryu says he’s set to compete from the start. “I think I have to start throwing on the mound from the very beginning of the camp,” he said. “And I think I am physically ready to do that.”
Though he carries an excellent 3.28 lifetime ERA over his 348 2/3 innings, Ryu has made just one MLB start since the beginning of the 2015 season. (On the bright side, he showed nearly his typical fastball velocity in that one outing and did throw 27 2/3 rehab innings last year, allowing just one walk.) Given his struggles to stay on the mound, Ryu seemingly recognizes that he’s no longer guaranteed a starting role. He noted that he’ll enter the spring “try[ing] to win a spot in the rotation.” The hope, says Ryu, is first to do that and then stay healthy for all of 2017.
There are longer-term implications here, too, for both player and team. Ryu is owed $7MM apiece in each of the next two seasons, and Los Angeles will surely hope to receive a contribution from the talented southpaw. And Ryu will be looking to get his career back on track before hitting the open market after 2018. (Though he could theoretically earn opt-out rights after this coming season, there is no realistic way he can reach the 750 total innings needed for that clause to vest.)