Dodgers News: Hyun-Jin Ryu’s Velocity Worthy Of Attention, But Not Yet A Concern
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Some of the feel-good surrounding Hyun-Jin Ryu’s first start for the Los Angeles Dodgers since October 2014 was erased only one batter into Thursday’s series opener against the San Diego Padres.

The majority of Ryu’s first few pitches to leadoff hitter Melvin Upton Jr. were 91 or 90 mph, which was on par with where the southpaw sat throughout his rehab assignment. Ryu reached back and hit 92 on the gun with his sixth pitch but it was all for naught.

Upton Jr. deposited the four-seam fastball into the right-center field pavilion for a solo home run. There were positives; Ryu spun a breaking ball reminiscent of his pre-surgery days, and he threw a 1-2-3 third inning after a shaky second.

“Overall I felt really great even though I gave up the runs,” Ryu said through an interpreter after the Dodgers’ shutout loss. “During the outing my shoulder felt great, I didn’t see any issues.”

He was chased in the fifth inning after the Padres mounted a two-out rally to score three runs. Ryu’s effectiveness and velocity dropped considerably as his pitch count rose. Yangervis Solarte doubled on an 88-mph first-pitch fastball and Alex Dickerson, the final batter Ryu faced, hit an 89-mph fastball for a two-run triple.

“Through four innings the velocity was where it needed to be, 89-91 (mph). I thought he threw a lot of quality pitches,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “That fifth inning, after the two doubles, then the velocity dipped to 85 and 86, I thought he just got a little tired.”

Both Roberts and Ryu downplayed there being any concern with velocity in the first start. “Even from the beginning, I was never a first-half pitcher. I would always come back in the second half with stronger velocity,” Ryu said.

“Compared to when I was healthy, of course my velocity is a little down. But again, as I pitch more games, I think I’ll get that back.” Roberts conceded it will be learning process as Ryu progresses. “Until we can sustain start after start and get some length and continue to increase his pitch count, it’s an unknown,” Roberts said.

“We’ll just keep a watchful eye on it (every start).” A.J. Ellis, whose experience in catching Ryu dates back to 2013, was generally pleased with the performance. “His fastball-changeup were similar to what he is,” Ellis said.

“The breaking ball is a pitch he was developing before he was injured, so it’s going to take some time to get that back If he tightens that slider up we’ll see 2013-14 Hyun-Jin. … What he had to work with [Thursday] was plenty good enough to get a lot of Major-League hitters out. Any increase in velocity would just be a bonus for us.”

All parties involved put more stock on Ryu simply getting through the outing without issue, physically speaking. The next two days will be more telling. “I think the biggest part was getting him back out there,” Roberts said.

“That was a victory in itself. I think the bigger answer will be how he feels [Friday] and the next day going forward.” After pitching with a partial tear in his left shoulder labrum for two seasons, Ryu called the postgame feeling in his throwing shoulder “totally different,” when asked to compare it to previous seasons.