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Hyun-jin Ryu aims for spot in opening day rotation

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers-Workouts Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

PHOENIX — Dodgers pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu threw to hitters on Sunday at Camelback Ranch, and is confident he can be healthy and ready to pitch at the beginning of the season.

"I definitely want to be in the starting rotation from Day 1, and that's what I'm planning to do,” Ryu said. “From the looks of it, I have a lot of confidence I can make it.”

Ryu and Scott Kazmir each threw to hitters on Field 1 on Sunday, the first time in camp Dodgers pitchers have faced live hitters after several days of bullpen sessions. Manager Dave Roberts said it was a chance for pitchers to get a different look, to better gauge their pitches with batters standing in against them.

For Ryu, it was his second time throwing off a mound since camp started, and he also threw a few bullpen sessions before camp began.

The left-hander said he is healthy after September’s arthroscopic elbow surgery, and feels better than he did last spring, when he was still recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, and injury that cost him a season and a half.

"Because I've only pitched one game in the last two years, there are question marks surrounding my name, just like in 2013 when I first got to the Dodgers,” Ryu said. “There are definitely things I have to prove to the organization to make the starting rotation.”

The Dodgers’ depth in the starting rotation will still likely allow them to be cautious this spring with Ryu, who made just one start last year, on July 7, before getting shut down with elbow soreness.

“He's done everything he can this offseason to come into camp and reclaim his spot,” president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said on Wednesday.

That spot was secure in the Dodgers rotation in 2013-2014, when Ryu had a 3.17 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 56 starts. That followed seven All-Star seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization, where he pitched for the Hanwha Eagles, starting at age 19 in 2006.

Ryu said he tried to remain optimistic during the last two years, his first real break from pitching in a decade.

“I really had a chance to look back on my career and my thoughts,” he said.

But during that time of reflection, did Ryu have any doubts that he would make it back to the major leagues?

“No, not at all,” Ryu said.