Dodgers pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu was given a hero's send-off on Thursday (Friday morning in South Korea), mobbed by reporters at Incheon International Airport as he left for Los Angeles to prepare for the 2014 season.
Ryu, arguably the biggest sports star in South Korea, was busy all winter with his commercial shoots and pop singles, but has made a priority to be ready for the 2014 season, per Yoo Jee-ho of Yonhap News:
Ryu said he is starting his offseason training about two weeks earlier than last year. He said he felt a little out of sync at the start of last year's spring training and wanted to make sure he wouldn't be as sluggish this year.
Ryu also said he doesn't want anything to do with any sophomore slump.
"I hope to begin the season on a good note right from the first game," Ryu said. "Hopefully, that will help me win a lot of games. As long as I can stay healthy, I don't think my stats will change that drastically." Asked about the specific target for a number of victories in 2014, Ryu said, "I won't look too far down the road. I'd first like to get to 10 wins and then I can go from there."
The date for Dodgers pitchers and catchers to report to Camelback Ranch in Arizona is February 8.
Ryu was famously slow while running in his first team workout in spring training in 2013, but responded with one of the best lines of the year, cementing his status as one of the funniest players on the team.
"The other players don't listen to what the trainers are saying," Ryu said last February, smiling. "The trainers told us to run it in 35 seconds; why are they running it in 26 seconds? I ran it in 35 seconds."
Ryu was a stabilizing force in the Dodgers starting rotation in 2013, going 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts. He struck out 154 and walked only 48 in 192 innings, just the second time he reached 190 innings since 2007. In the second half Ryu was even stronger, with a 2.57 ERA over his final 11 starts, including 58 strikeouts and a miniscule eight walks in 70 innings.
"My goal is to be as consistent as I was last year," Ryu told Yonhap News. "I want to stay in the rotation from start to finish and stay healthy."
Naver has many more photos of Ryu meeting with reporters at the airport before leaving, including these two:
Like Adrian Gonzalez, it appears Ryu Hyun-jin is also a fan of Mickey Mouse pic.twitter.com/xnFmo15Ey7— Dan (@MyKBO) January 10, 2014