For all the talk of the Dodgers’ postseason rotation, one name seems to be an afterthought, Hyun-Jin Ryu. Very quietly he has been one of the Dodgers’ most dominant pitchers as of late and is making a case for a starting rotation spot come October. The question is, where will he fit in this rotation that is rounded out by Kershaw, Darvish, Hill and Wood.
With three of the four top Dodgers starters currently on the DL, it leaves the Dodgers with a dilemma. Can they trust these starters to be healthy when the money is on the line? The most likely answer is yes, but if they cannot, they have a more than capable starter ready to take their spot.
Since the All-Star break, Hyun-Jin Ryu has been lights out with a 1.54 ERA and a 2.13 ERA in his last nine starts. Yes, the sample size may be small, but we all know the pitcher Ryu was before his shoulder and elbow injuries. While he is more than deserving of a spot in the rotation, Ryu will not get the nod over the guys who have been doing it all season, and while it is a problem, it is a good problem to have.
If Ryu can’t earn a spot in the rotation for the playoffs, where will he best be used? My guess is out of the bullpen.
We all would like to believe that each Dodgers starter will go eight strong innings of one hit-ball, but the reality is that one of them is going to get hit off of.
This is where Ryu can enter out of the pen and put out the fire. Using Ryu in the long relief role, similar to Ross Stripling’s current role, would probably be the best fit. Even the coaching staff wouldn’t feel comfortable using him in a traditional bullpen role.
Here is pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on the possibility of a bullpen role:
"“It would be a tough thing to be more of a one-inning guy, plus he never went on back-to-back days, those type of things. I think it would be unfair to him to ask him to be able to do that.”"
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Pitching out of the bullpen isn’t something you can just learn overnight; it’s a skill that your body must acclimate to over an extended period. This is where September can get very interesting.
With Kershaw, Wood, Darvish and McCarthy all due back within the next week, the Dodgers’ rotation will start to overflow with a surplus of arms and to make room for them, it’s possible Ryu gets slotted into Stripling’s role.
I would much rather see Ryu make consistent starts because at the end of the day he is a starter and an excellent one at that. However, if the staff is looking ahead to the big games in the postseason, Ryu will almost definitely not get a start.
Who knows, maybe Wood doesn’t get his velocity back up after his return from the DL and Ryu gets the nod. I’m not going to hope for that, but it is a very real possibility.
Maybe Rich Hill’s injury bug comes back to bite him; anything is possible. Look for all of the Dodgers starters to get their innings limited in the upcoming weeks as they try and trot guys out for the bullpen tryout.
The Dodgers have a stacked rotation coming into the end of the season, and it’s just overcrowded with talented arms. Whoever gets the ball for playoff games will more than likely do their job, but if they cannot, the Dodgers have a secret weapon in the form of Hyun-Jin “Monster” Ryu.