Ryu wants to build off solid Cactus League debut

Ryu wants to build off solid Cactus League debut

PHOENIX -- Two seasons removed from back-to-back 14-win campaigns, Hyun-Jin Ryu is back on course, if not yet back in the Dodgers' starting rotation.

After shoulder and elbow surgeries limited him to one start over the past two years, Ryu made his Cactus League debut in Saturday's 8-2 win over the Angels, pitching two scoreless innings. But what he said afterward was more important than anything in the box score.

"I feel great right now," Ryu said through an interpreter. "This is the first game, I don't want to put too much meaning into it, I just want to be ready for the opening of the season."

Ryu's scoreless spring debut

Ryu is one of several Dodgers starters coming back from injury. Brandon McCarthy (elbow, yips) pitched well Friday night, Scott Kazmir (hip tightness) threw four innings in a simulated game in Minor League camp on Saturday with modestly improved results and Alex Wood (last year's elbow surgery) starts Sunday night.

With Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenta Maeda locked into the top of the rotation, it's unclear where the others slot in. And the situation is further crowded by 20-year-old Julio Urias, who will have his innings rationed despite appearing to be one of the best among the group behind Kershaw.

Extended Spring Training is a possibility for Urias, and others, like Ryu, for example. After missing all but one game over two years, Dodgers' management isn't ready to declare a victory after one Cactus League start, and a third inning thrown in the bullpen afterward.

"With him, we're being very deliberate," manager Dave Roberts said. "With the depth we have, there's really no rush. We want to make sure he feels good and continues to improve. We haven't talked about where he would be when camp breaks. It just depends on who we have healthy and where he's built up, and then we'll make a decision."

Ryu's behind-the-back stop

Ryu, who turns 30 on March 25, said he is approaching this Spring Training as he did his first camp in 2013 after arriving from Korea.

"Just like the first time here, I'm obviously competing for a spot," Ryu said. "I have a few more games, and if I focus on each game at a time, I'm sure good results will follow."

The results were good enough to draw praise from Roberts.

"He's got such good arm speed, and repeating that delivery, he's got great deception on the change-up. Today was really a good day for Ryu," Roberts said. "He's right not to make too much of it, but it's something for us to build on. When he's right, he's really good. This was a step in the right direction, and we've got to continue to build up his arm strength and he's got to stay healthy."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.