Dodgers: Hyun-Jin Ryu Could Be the Dodgers X-Factor

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Mar 16, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) throws in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu (99) throws in the first inning against the Chicago Cubs during a spring training game at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Dodgers 2016 season ended at the hands of the eventual World Series Champion the Chicago Cubs with them getting the best of Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw.

The front office then had some big decisions on their hands with Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and Rich Hill all hitting the free agent market. Would the Dodgers front office spend the money to retain key members of their October run or would they go in a different direction?

The front office decided to retain all three players with Rich Hill inking a three-year $48 million deal, Justin Turner a four-year $64 million deal, and Jansen a five-year $80 million deal. The question that remains is did the Dodgers add enough to reach the World Series for the first time since 1988?

Aside from retaining their current players, the Dodgers did not really sign any new free agents to the join the clubhouse for the 2017 season. While the front office did go out and acquire Logan Forsythe to start at second base, I believe the biggest addition to this team might be one that has already been donning Dodger blue.

The man that I am referring to is none other than number 99 Hyun-Jin Ryu. In 2012, the Dodgers agreed to a six-year $36 million deal with the Korean southpaw. In his first two seasons, Ryu was a staple in the Dodgers rotation going a combined 28-15 with a 3.17 ERA, 293 strikeout’s and only 78 walks in over 344 innings pitched.

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However, Ryu tore his labrum in his throwing shoulder, which required surgery and cost him the entire 2015 season. Ryu was supposed to be ready by spring training of last year but suffered multiple setbacks that kept him out even longer. It wasn’t until July 7, 2016, that he made his first appearance of the season against the San Diego Padres.

Ryu’s return was a disaster as he gave up six earned runs on eight hits in only four and two-thirds innings. This was Ryu’s first and last appearance of the season as he was then put on the disabled list once again for elbow tendonitis.

Fast-forward to the present day, the 29-year-old is finally healthy and pitching again during spring training. So far the results have been promising, as Ryu has made two appearances for a total of five innings pitches. Over those five innings, both starts, he has posted a 1.80 ERA while striking out six and only walking one. While this is just spring training, this is an encouraging early sign for the Dodgers.

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I believe that a healthy Ryu could be the piece that the Dodgers have been looking for to finally put them over the top. For the past couple of seasons, Clayton Kershaw has had to shoulder the majority of the load in the postseason. Adding Ryu, who has playoff experience, to the rotation of Kershaw, Hill, Urias, and Maeda in a playoff series would be tough to beat. But in order for this to happen Ryu needs to be healthy.

The Dodgers should bring along Ryu as slowly as possible. In my opinion, Ryu should begin the season on the disabled list and remain at Camelback Ranch. The Dodgers are deep in starting pitchers so they do not need Ryu to pitch right away. Staying in Camelback Ranch would allow him to get in some extra work in sort of an extended spring training. This will allow Ryu to continue to build strength in his left arm so that he can withstand the rigors of the baseball season.

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Many people forget how dominant of a pitcher Ryu can be and how integral he was to the Dodgers’ success prior to his injury. If he can return and somewhat resemble the player he was prior to the injuriesI think it would go a long way. The Dodgers didn’t bring in many new players this offseason but I believe that Ryu has the potential to be the biggest addition to this 2017 Dodgers team.

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