There is a delicate balance of confidence versus trepidation with the Dodgers and Hyun-jin Ryu. On one hand, the franchise invested nearly $62 million over six seasons in the left-hander. But there is also the relative unknown that other than video the Dodgers coaching staff simply haven't seen much of the soon-to-be-26-year-old hurler.
But what manager Don Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt saw of Ryu was pleasing to the eye, as the left-hander struck out five in his three innings of work in the Dodgers' 4-0 loss to the Indians in Goodyear. He didn't give up any runs until the fourth inning, when both of his bequeathed runners came around to score.
"With Hyun-jin it was just tough because we haven't seen this guy at the major league level," Mattingly said. "I know we've seen some video tape, but like we said this morning, how are hitters going to react to him? Today showed that this guy knows what he's doing. He knows how to change speeds, he pitches quick. For us, we just want to see it."
Ryu was pleased, especially with his first three scoreless frames.
"Everything was alright, satisfactory. But going into the fourth inning, I had 10 pitches left. I kind of lost focus. I wanted to try to finish it in 10 pitches. I felt I kind of rushed myself."
Both Mattingly and catcher A.J. Ellis praised Ryu's fastball.
"The thing that stood out to me, especially in the last couple of innings, was his fastball command and his ability to throw the ball to both sides of the plate," Ellis said. "His change up is obviously a major league out pitch. We just have to work on those breaking balls."
Ryu said he would continue to mix in more breaking balls and refine them as the spring goes on. It's all part of his routine, getting ready for the season, a process that served him well in seven seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.
"You have a way you've done things for a long time in baseball, but he's done things too, and he's had success," Mattingly said. "There are a lot of ways to skin a cat. If he's having success, I don't want to fight him."
One of the things Ryu has done is not throw a bullpen session between starts. Though he said it's not something the Dodgers have asked him to change that practice.
"He's comfortable where he is at, and knows he's building up for a long season, versus guys who have to make an impression," Ellis said. "This is a guy who was the best baseball player in his entire country. He's got all the reasons in the world to be confident and believe in himself and what he's done. Until we see otherwise, we're going to let him do what he needs to do to get ready for the season."
The Dodgers host the Rangers at Camelback Ranch on Thursday afternoon. Chad Billingsley gets the start for Los Angeles, facing Randy Wells for Texas. Also scheduled to pitch for the Dodgers are Mark Lowe, Peter Moylan, and Josh Wall.