Hyun-jin Ryu was a pretty cool customer during spring training, never showing much emotion as he continued to improve with each start. But for his first major league start, Tuesday's 3-0 loss to the Giants, the Dodgers left-hander let his guard down just a little bit.
"I definitely felt the pressure. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't anxious or nervous. It was the first time I felt that in a very long time as a competitor," Ryu said. "But considering it was my first outing, I am pretty satisfied with how things turned out."
The positives for Ryu were that he didn't walk a batter, struck out five, and pitched into the seventh inning. The negatives were the 10 hits allowed, though it didn't really hurt him until the seventh inning, when San Francisco turned a 1-0 lead into 3-0.
"I don't think he was sharp tonight as he was in spring training. It didn't seem like his breaking ball was as it good as it has been at different times," said manager Don Mattingly. "He ends up rolling a bunch of ground balls, gets himself in and out of trouble. He gave up a lot of hits, but he got himself out of stuff because he knows what he's doing."
Ryu was helped by his defense with three double plays and another runner thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. However, two errors in the seventh led directly to two runs. But Ryu, who was pulled with one out in the seventh inning, took the blame for the defeat.
"I would never want to put our defense in that situation," Ryu said. "They did a great job tonight. If anything, I shouldn't have put our team in that situation for that play to happen."
Ryu has been compared to David Wells in both body type and pitching style, and Tuesday typified that comparison. Wells allowed 3,635 hits in 3,439 career innings and barely walked anybody (1.9 walks per nine innings), and Ryu allowed 10 in his 6⅓ innings with no walks.
"I don't think he's a guy that's going to not give up hits. He's going to give up his share of hits," Mattingly said of Ryu. "I don't think he's concerned. He pitched well."
Perhaps Ryu was also channeling Wells when he sauntered down to first base in the sixth inning, even drawing scattered boos from the crowd.
"He was slow down to first, but you can't be that slow," Mattingly said. "We'll have to talk about it. I'm not sure if he understands it."
Ryu said he felt embarrassed by the play, though he was just trying to conserve energy. But it really wasn't much of a big deal.
"I'm moving on and looking forward to the next battle," Ryu said.