The Los Angeles Dodgers got their first live look at South Korean left-hander Hyun-jin Ryu as spring training opened, and they came away impressed with their $62 million investment.
"Our scouts liked him -- and I liked what I saw on video," Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "I'd have signed him myself just based off what I saw on video. This guy has command of four pitches, knows how to pitch at a young age."
Honeycutt said he liked Ryu's "smooth delivery" and fastball command early in camp and said he flashed a "plus-plus changeup." At 6-foot-2, 215 pounds (his listed weight, though he appears heavier), that is the only thing flashy about Ryu. Honeycutt admitted Ryu's conditioning was probably not where it needed to be, but Ryu good-naturedly shrugged off questions about his lagging behind in conditioning runs with the other pitchers.
"I don't think the other players listen to what the trainers are saying," Ryu joked through his translator. "The trainers tell us to run (each lap) in 35 seconds. Why are they running it in 26? I ran it in 35 seconds."
Ryu is attempting to become the first player to go directly from the Korean Baseball Organization to the major leagues. The Dodgers have him penciled into their rotation, likely as their fourth starter, but he remains an unknown quantity.
"I kind of look at it as -- if you can play, you can play," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "If you can pitch and execute pitches, if you can hit and swing the bat -- if you can play, you can play.
"It's how quickly you make that adjustment (to a new country, language and league). That's the biggest thing."