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Dodgers take conservative path with Hyun-jin Ryu

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX -- Dodgers pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu is battling back from left shoulder surgery that robbed him of his entire 2015 season, and though by all accounts is doing well and aiming to be ready on opening day, the club plans to deploy a conservative strategy to his continued rehab progression during spring training.

Ryu threw roughly 35 pitches in a bullpen session at Camelback Ranch on Thursday, with manager Dave Roberts watching.

"It was coming out easy. The effort was low intensity. I asked how he felt today and he was pretty optimistic," Roberts said. "Just a normal soreness kind of thing but pain free.

"We don’t want to put a timeline on anything. We just want him to continue to progress and pass the markers which he is doing."

Roberts wouldn't reveal his starting rotation plans on Friday, other than ace Clayton Kershaw in his familiar pole position.

"We haven't talked too much about where each guy is going to be in the rotation," Roberts said. "We know who's going to be number one."

But when healthy, Ryu clearly has a spot in the Dodgers' rotation. With Scott Kazmir, Kenta Maeda, Brett Anderson and Alex Wood and the gaggle of other starters at the ready, the Dodgers are willing to wait until Ryu is fully ready.

This jibes with our thoughts back in January, when I urged patience at when to expect Ryu to return when there was talk of an opening day goal surfacing.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said that Ryu would definitely pitch in spring training games, but that the club hasn't yet set a date for exactly when that first appearance would be.

"Emotionally we all want him to be ready for opening day. He does, we do. It's important for us to do it the right way, and do it in a way that when he comes back he's back for good. It's appreciating the bigger picture," Friedman said. "We have the luxury and we have depth. We want him to be ready, and that's why there is gray area in the schedule. There is no set return date."

There is still over six weeks until opening day, and seven weeks until the Dodgers need a fifth starter. Should Ryu progress to the point where he is ready by then, more power to him. But they aren't going to force the issue, and that seems like the prudent choice.