The Los Angeles Dodgers electing to start Walker Buehler in Game 1 of the 2019 National League Division Series was certainly understandable, but Hyun-Jin Ryu not slotting into their rotation until the third game against the Washington Nationals was a mild surprise.
Ryu has enjoyed a wealth of success at home throughout his career and was particularly dominant at Dodger Stadium in 2019. Buehler and Clayton Kershaw similarly had favorable home splits, though Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that was not a deciding factor in setting the rotation.
There is also aspect of Ryu going through the season as the Dodgers’ best starter. However, the presumptive NL Cy Young Award winner does not view his Game 3 start as any sort of slight.
“There was no issue at all,” Ryu said through a translator. “And getting that extra days of rest is always helpful. They told me how we have four guys that could literally be a first guy up, so I had no problem having other guys start before me or after me.”
By not pitching until Sunday, the start is coming on seven days’ rest. Ryu owned a superb 0.71 ERA this season when taking the mound on regular rest, but still an impressive 1.18 mark on at least six days.
The Dodgers often made adjustments to provide him and others with extra rest whenever possible, and it led to Ryu throwing bullpen sessions with some regularity. He notoriously skipped the traditional throwing throughout much of his career.
Ryu threw a bullpen on Thursday in preparation for his start at Nationals Park, and is willing to do so moving forward. “If I need to start every fifth day, I’m pretty sure I won’t incorporate it,” he said.
“I like to keep things the way I did in the past. But if there are more rest days in between I’m all for it.”
Last October marked Ryu’s first time pitching in the postseason since 2014. He’ll take the mound Sunday with the NLDS tied at one game apiece and the Dodgers facing the reality of needing at least one road win in order to advance to the NL Championship Series.
“I don’t think there’s much difference,” answered Ryu when asked to compare his mental and physical state now to heading into last year’s playoffs. “But I guess the mindset has to change when it comes to postseason games.
“I feel healthier this season compared to the past seasons. My job is to go out there and make sure to put up zeros and try to give up the least amount of runs as a starting pitcher and just go hard from the get-go. I think there’s a little change in that respect, but in general, I don’t think there’s much change from last season.”