The Dodgers on Monday introduced their newest acquisition, as 25-year old pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu will be the fourth Korean to play for the Dodgers. The signing of Ryu was helped by the first of those four Korean players, Chan Ho Park, who figures prominently for Ryu.
"I have learned how to play Chan Ho's game, and it's an honor to play with the Dodgers. I will do my best to follow Chan Ho's record here," Ryu said through an interpreter.
Park won 124 games in part of 17 major league seasons, the most ever by an Asian-born player. It is a record Ryu said he hopes to break one day. Park was 84-58 in parts of nine seasons with the Dodgers, and was Ryu's teammate with the Hanwha Eagles in 2012. Colletti sought Park's advice about Ryu.
"(Park) said (Ryu) was youthful, but also has great stuff, great competitiveness, and a great feel for pitching," said general manager Ned Colletti.
Ryu was an All-Star in each of his seven seasons with the Korea Baseball Organization, and led the league in strikeouts five times. Colletti said Ryu will start rather than pitch in relief, and approved a clause in Ryu's contract that gives the pitcher the right to block any minor league assignment.
"There is some risk to it, but that's a decision we had to make. His professional record was strong enough, his experience there was strong enough, and our scouts believed in him all the way through," Colletti said. "We had two different groups of scouts weigh in on him, and they were all positive."
While Colletti never personally saw Ryu pitch, the Dodgers had "seven or eight" scouts who had seen the left-hander, including vice president of pro scouting Rick Ragazzo, who saw Ryu pitch in high school. New international scouting director Bob Engle and his team of scouts, hired in November, also weighed in.
"They came with a totally different set of eyes, and they all sounded close to the same," Colletti said.
Colletti said the Dodgers have made a concerted effort to invest internationally under the new ownership group.
"It was one of the primary things I said to them. They asked 'What do we need to do as soon as possible?' and I said we can't wait internationally," Colletti said. "We have waited to long, we haven't been able to engage. Whether it's Latin America or the Pacific Rim, we haven't been able to do it.
"We made some signing this past signing season, and we signed (Yasiel) Puig, and this makes two (big international signings). We had interested in the kid (Shohei) Otani, who decided not to come over (from Japan)."
Colletti said in 2011, when the Dodgers were well out of playoff contention near the trading deadline, his focus shifted when looking at other teams and their rosters.
"Now we were looking at prospects more than we ever had. We were looking deeper into organizations than we had in the past. As we look at the organizations that had the most success and with the deepest farm systems, you can't help but notice the Latin American influence and the Asian influence," Colletti said. "That's what you need to do. This is a global sport."
The additions of Ryu and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers have eight starting pitchers under contract for 2013. While Colletti hinted that he would be open to opening spring training with all eight pitchers still on the team, he noted that there are still two months before spring training and that having too much pitching is never a bad thing.
"We're more fortunate than gluttonous. ... It's better to be sitting where we're sitting than we've been. You never know how many you are going to need in the course of the season," Colletti said. "We'll see how it goes. We'll see what the next weeks and months provide for us, what the injury reports provide for us on Ted and Chad. As the spring opens we'll see where we are at and make determinations. For us, it's always fluid."
- The Dodgers will pay for an interpreter for Ryu, who speaks very limited English. Ryu, through an interpreter on Monday, said he would learn English little by little to help communicate with his new teammates. Ownership partner Magic Johnson, sitting on the dais next to the podium, joked to the interpreter, "Just tell him to throw strikes, and he'll communicate just fine."
- Greinke's six-year deal with the Dodgers became official on Monday. He will wear number 21, and will be introduced at a press conference on Tuesday.
- In addition to Park, who pitched for the Dodgers from 1994-2001 and in 2008, the other Korean players to play for the Dodgers were Hee Seop Choi, who played for the team in 2004-2005, and Jae Seo, who pitched for the team in 2006.
- Colletti said the Dodgers are open to signing Clayton Kershaw to a contract extension this offseason. "As we get through the next few weeks, we'll look into that," Colletti said. But after spending over $650 million in salaries since taking over in May, will the Dodgers ownership have any money left over for their ace? "I believe so," Colletti said, smiling.
- Colletti said he is still looking to improve the bullpen and, in his words, "add some depth" to the roster. Specifically the Dodgers are looking for someone with versatility, who can play multiple positions, and likely a left-handed hitter.
- Colletti also said that outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr., who is not on the 40-man roster, will be invited to big league camp in spring training. Gwynn was eligible for the Rule 5 draft on Dec. 6, but was not taken. If any team would have drafted Gwynn, they would have been responsible for Gwynn's $1.15 million salary for 2013.
- Doug Mientkiewicz, who was the hitting coach for the rookie league Ogden Raptors in 2012, has left the Dodgers to become manager of Class-A Fort Myers in the Twins' system. Colletti said Mientkiewicz wanted to be closer to home.
- The Dodgers haven't yet announced their 2013 minor league coaching staffs, as Colletti said vice president of player development De Jon Watson still has a few more spots to fill.