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Ryu trying to get leg up in Dodgers camp


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- If you've been following Hyun-Jin Ryu's first week in Dodgers camp carefully (and the entire nation of Korea apparently has), you'll know that he won't be running track for the South Korea Olympic Team if this baseball gig doesn't pan out.

He's got a $62 million left arm and he'll be appearing in the Dodgers' second exhibition game on Feb. 24 (Zack Greinke starts), but Ryu has struggled in running conditioning drills.

Apparently, he's out to change that. Ryu picked up the pace and crept into mid-pack on Saturday. In interviews after his second bullpen session, he made sure everybody knew, as if he's been sandbagging.

"I didn't come in last today," Ryu said through an interpreter. "I'm improving. Everybody is very impressed. I think it's my time to show how I really run."

Manager Don Mattingly was more focused on Ryu's pitching, standing in the batter's box to get a hitter's view of his new starter. The closest comparison he could make was former Dodgers lefty Sid Fernandez.

"The motion is subtle and the ball comes out easy," he said. "It catches you off-guard. It's a little different to time."

Mattingly saw only five pitches and all were fastballs, while Ryu acknowledged it was a little unnerving to have his manager in the box during a 50-pitch bullpen session.

"I was a little anxious. I'm not fully used to the ball yet," Ryu said. "Not just me, Other pitchers thought the ball was a little slick today."

Ryu was unhappy with a soft landing spot on the mound and went to a firmer one to complete his session, throwing effective changeups but struggling when mixing in curveballs. He will get two days off, then throw live batting practice.

"It wasn't bad at all," Ryu said. "Ten more pitches than the first time, I moved forward. I haven't thrown much of the curveball, but the changeup and fastball were pretty good." He said the goal for his first start is not to walk anybody.

"I'm not out to prove a point right away," Ryu said. "Getting closer to the regular season when I'm up to four or five innings, I'll get in more of a competitive mode. Until then I'm just adjusting to everything."

He joked around with third baseman Luis Cruz, who has reached out to make Ryu feel comfortable. While Korean media members were interviewing Cruz, Ryu reached in with a microphone and asked a question in Korean about a ping-pong challenge.

"I remember the first time in the States and I didn't speak English, and it doesn't feel good," said Cruz, a native of Mexico. "He's a good guy and I want to help him out. I know how he feels."

"We don't speak the same language," Ryu said of Cruz, "but he cares and he takes care of me. It's a good fit."

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