After signing a six-year $36 million deal, Hyun Jin Ryu takes the mound tonight in his big league debut. A star in the Korean Professional Baseball league, Ryu is a seven-time all star and has the KPB Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in his trophy case.
He’s proven he can pitch at a high level.
But can he speak English at a high level?
In front of the media he’s only uttered a couple of words in the language.
Dodger manager Don Mattingly was asked how good the communication is between him and the Korean lefty.
“With the interpreter it’s fine,” Mattingly said.
“Sketchy,” answered Mattingly, smiling.
So can Mattingly speak enough Korean to give the pitcher sound advice?
“Well not really,” Mattingly said. “At least not anything I can share. It’s kind of like when you learn Spanish. You learn all the dirty words first.”
Joking aside, the team expects big things from Ryu. They spent over $25 million just for the right to negotiate with his agent, then another $36 million to sign him. That gives them more than $62 million reasons to hope he’s a difference maker
Mattingly says Ryu is ready. He’ll likely allow Ryu to pitch deep into the game if the lefty is effective.
“He had a full Spring (Training),” Mattingly said. “He didn’t miss any turns. He’s already where he needs to be. One of the starts in Spring he hit 105 (pitches) so he’s got a full game in him.”
If confidence is a factor, Ryu’s in great shape. During the preseason Ryu mentioned one of his goals is to win the the Rookie of the Year award.
“It might take 12 or 13 wins, and I can do that,” Ryu said.
Learning the nuances of the English language might prove more difficult. The good news is, when the team is in LA, Ryu will feel at home. He’ll have help too.
“The fact that I can go to Koreatown, not speak English and be ok is pretty nice,” Ryu said. “Luckily I found some pretty good Korean restaurants here in Los Angeles. My mom just got here too, so she’ll be making some home-cooked meals.”
Time will tell what kind of numbers the five-time Korean league strikeout leader will post for the Dodgers.
The team can only hope putting away meals he’s used to in Korea helps him compile the statistics he’s used to putting up there too.
If so, Ryu’s abilities will translate to success, no matter the language.
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