Dodgers' Ryu Hyun-jin hopes to duplicate successful rookie season
SEOUL, Nov. 1 (Yonhap) -- Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers said Friday he hopes to duplicate his success as a Major League Baseball (MLB) rookie next year.
The left-handed pitcher returned home to South Korea on Tuesday to spend his offseason. At a press conference held at a Seoul hotel on Friday, the 26-year-old said his goals for 2014 will stay the same.
"I will be entering my ninth year as a pro, and I don't really have new goals for next year," Ryu said. "First and foremost, I would like to win at least 10 games and post an ERA in the 2.00 range."
In his first MLB season after pitching for seven seasons for the Hanwha Eagles in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), Ryu went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts. He struck out 154 batters and walked 49 in 192 innings pitched.
He ranked first among National League (NL) rookies in innings pitched and second in ERA.
Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Nov. 1, 2013. (Yonhap)
The Eagles posted him for interested MLB clubs last winter and the Dodgers won the right to negotiate with the pitcher with a bid of US$25.7 million. He later signed a six-year deal worth $36 million.
Ryu is the first South Korean to jump directly from the KBO to the big leagues via the posting system. He dispelled concerns about his ability to handle major league bats, stringing together a series of steady starts and helping the Dodgers win the NL West division crown as the No. 3 starter behind the two former Cy Young Award winners, Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke.
Ryu also won Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, becoming the first South Korean to win a big league postseason game thanks to seven shutout innings.
Ryu said playing baseball in the United States was "not that much different" from doing so in South Korea.
"Their players are stronger, but that's about the only difference," he said. "Baseball is the same everywhere. I always wanted to keep doing things the way I've been doing all along, but I guess that attracted a lot of media attention."
Ryu admitted he at first struggled with a shorter break between starts, saying he at first found it difficult to pitch every fifth day, rather than every sixth or seventh day as he'd done here.
"I had no choice but to try to adjust, and I got better after about 10 games," Ryu said. "I think that helped me put together some good starts."
Ryu also raised eyebrows in the U.S. for not throwing in the bullpen before his starts. His first-inning woes -- his ERA for the first inning was 5.10 and seven of 15 homers off Ryu were hit in the opening frame -- have been attributed to his habit of not having a bullpen session. Ryu insisted, however, that he doesn't plan on changing his routine next year.
"I know I was knocked around early in the games this year, but I don't plan to throw in the bullpen next year," he said. "I am only going to focus on recovering quickly during my four days off (between starts)."
Ryu has been fairly consistent for the most part, but he was hit hard in some starts in April and again in July.
The confident pitcher said even though his peripheral numbers might have been mediocre at times, he didn't think he ever pitched poorly at any point this season.
"Even when I wasn't winning, my pitches weren't bad," he said. "I just had bad statistics. But from April to the end of the season, I never once thought I was struggling."