Dodgers like progress Ryu shows in latest start

PHOENIX -- If Hyun-Jin Ryu didn't initially know what he was getting himself into by signing with the Dodgers and leaving Korea, he's been a quick study lately, pretty much ever since manager Don Mattingly said that Ryu didn't have a starting spot guaranteed.

Ryu followed that announcement with five strikeouts in three innings last week and a performance on Monday the club liked even better, stats notwithstanding (4 2/3 innings, three earned runs), in a game televised live back to Korea at 5 a.m.

Making the sub start for Zack Greinke, who was scratched with inflammation in his elbow, Ryu allowed a three-run fourth inning keyed by Rickie Weeks' triple in the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the Brewers. But manager Don Mattingly and catcher A.J. Ellis both rated this Ryu's best outing yet.

"It was good, and A.J. said he held his stuff, and that's what I like to hear," Mattingly said. "He was still sharp and crisp. Didn't run out of gas. You can tell he knows what he's doing. He was yo-yoing, adding and subtracting."

Ryu said he is getting a better feel for his breaking pitches, his overall command is improving and his fastball is stronger as he adds innings. Ryu appeared to be behind his teammates in conditioning and arm strength when camp opened, but he now said he's on pace to be pitching deep into games when the season starts.

And he said he has "no doubts" that he will succeed in the Major Leagues.

Said Weeks: "He looked pretty good. There were times I thought he could be pretty tough when a guy gets on base. He tries to mix up his motions; he was slide-stepping a couple of times, picking it up and going slow. I could tell he was pretty well-versed at that."

Mattingly said it's harder to compare Ryu to the other Dodgers starters because Ryu won't throw bullpen sessions between starts, so the staff sees less of Ryu on the mound.

"He was outstanding today, the sharpest he's been, better than last week," Ellis said. "This was much cleaner. He used all his pitches, the breaking ball was good and he had the changeup going. It was very encouraging."

Ellis qualified his comments with a reminder that this Brewers lineup didn't include Ryan Braun, Aramis Ramirez, Corey Hart or Jonathan Lucroy.

"We'll see what happens with an 'A' lineup," he said. "For Ryu, it's all about execution and concentration. I keep telling him that and I'm not sure he wants to hear it because he doesn't say anything. But if he does that, I'll match his stuff up with a lot of guys."

The game also marked Ryu's return to a batter's box for the first time in eight years, he said. He took three strikes that he said were low pitches in his first at- bat, but dropped down a nice sacrifice bunt in his other plate appearance that contributed to a two-run fourth inning.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.