Hyun-Jin Ryu’s face and statistics are shown on the JumboTron at Miller Park as he comes up to bat with bases loaded. Unfortunately, Ryu went 0 for 4 as a hitter with 3 strikeouts. Photo By WooJin “Kevin” Rho
WooJin “Kevin” Rho
On May 22, 2013, Hyun-Jin Ryu of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitched in his tenth Major League outing, this time against the Milwaukee Brewers. As Milwaukee is not far from Chicago, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to watch Ryu pitch at Miller Park.
Arriving about an hour and a half before the start of the game, I visited the dugout that the Dodgers used for the game. Manager Don Mattingly was interviewing in the dugout, four players were playing catch in the outfield, and the rest of the players were relaxing in the clubhouse. Former National League Cy Young pitcher Clayton Kershaw walked by, humming a song to himself, and Matt Kemp was sitting on the bench talking to a team's associate. Ryu himself was just sitting in the clubhouse. The laidback atmosphere and serenity seem to allow the players to relax and focus only on the game.
During the pregame interview, when asked about how Ryu looked for the game, Mattingly joked, “I don't know. Could I tell you later?”. Regarding his expectations for Ryu, Mattingly said that he expected him to pitch well. He smiled and added that he expects Ryu to pitch well always. At the end of the interview, when asked about his level of Korean, the coach laughed and said that his Korean is not very good.
Perhaps bouncing back from what seemed to be his worst outing in the Major League last game, Ryu pitched his longest game since his debut and recorded his fifth win, as well as a win in an away game, making himself a much stronger and more respectable pitcher. He lasted 7.1 innings and only gave up two runs: one on a solo homerun and another on a base runner that his relief pitcher could not prevent from scoring after Ryu had come down from the mound. On the other hand, the Dodgers’ offense pounded the Brewers’ pitcher Peralta early and scored nine runs by the end of the game. After the game, Ryu’s record now stands at five wins and two losses, tied with ace Clayton Kershaw for the best record on the team, and his ERA had dropped to 3.30.
In the clubhouse after the game, Ryu had wrapped his arm and shoulder and was wearing a Dodgers t-shirt, looking as comfortable as ever. During an interview, Ryu said that he had been very comfortable today, and though it was his first time pitching in a closed dome, he thought everything went fairly well. Because he was able to keep his pitch count low, he was able to go the distance. When asked if there was any particular reason why he pitched so well compared to his outing in Atlanta, he responded that the temperature was much better, and because he didn’t sweat as much as he did in Atlanta, he felt much better throwing the ball. Regarding his fifth win in ten outings, Ryu said that he was satisfied and much happier about his being able to keep his spot consistently in the starting rotation.
Another attraction to the game was the matchup of Ryu versus Norichika Aoki, the very respectable leadoff hitter for the Brewers from Japan, who also played on the Japanese national team in the World Baseball Classic. Aoki had two hits, and when Ryu was asked about how he felt, he said that he thinks of Aoki as just another Major League baseball player and feels no special rivalry because he is Japanese. When asked if he was disappointed that he has yet to completely shut out a team, he smiled and said “Someday…within this year.” Towards the end of the interview, Ryu said that he hopes for a two digit number of wins by the end of the season and has no expectations for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Nicknamed “Monster” for his unbelievable pitching abilities as well as for his being one of the bigger players in the league, Ryu was signed by the Dodgers for a huge deal with great expectations. So far, Ryu has measured up to those expectations, and hopefully he will continue to become a better pitcher and become one of the best pitchers in the league.
We will continue to cheer for our pride of South Korea, Hyun-Jin Ryu, as he progresses through the season.