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Dodgers get first look at Hyun-Jin Ryu on mound

Reviews are mostly positive after the Korean pitcher, signed in the off-season, works through a 40-pitch bullpen session.

February 14, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez
  • South Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches in his first bullpen session for the Dodgers during spring training.
South Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu pitches in his first bullpen session… (Yonhap / EPA )

PHOENIX -- Trailed by 20 to 40 South Korean journalists on a daily basis, Hyun-Jin Ryu has been the most-covered player at this camp.

But from the Dodgers' perspective, he's one of the least-known.

Manager Don Mattingly and his coaches finally got their first live look at the Dodgers' $61.7-million investment Thursday, as they watched the heavy-set left-hander throw a bullpen session. Although no one wanted to make predictions as to how Ryu would adjust to the major leagues based on a 40-pitch session, the early reviews were largely positive.

"He threw the ball where he wanted," Mattingly said. "That's the main thing I watch, if they're throwing the ball where they want."

Ryu, who will be the first player to go directly from the Korean league to the majors, is expected to be part of the Dodgers' rotation to start the season.

A.J. Ellis, who was behind the plate, was impressed by Ryu's fastball command too.

Ellis figured that would be the case. After the Dodgers signed Ryu to a six-year, $36-million contract — they also paid his Korean league team $25.7 million — they sent Ellis videos of three of his domestic league games.

Ellis also spoke highly of Ryu's changeup, which pitching coach Rick Honeycutt described as "a plus-plus pitch."

Because Ellis caught Ryu on this day, he found himself in unusually high demand, as more than 30 South Korean journalists gathered around him on his way back to the clubhouse.

"Never experienced anything like that before," Ellis said. "Lot of microphones in my face."

Because Ryu doesn't speak English, Ellis said he is working with Ryu's interpreter to draw up a list of key phrases so they can communicate during games.

Puig reports

The Dodgers' other high-priced enigma, Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig, reported to camp early. Reporting day for position players is Friday.

Puig, 22, signed a seven-year, $42-million deal with the Dodgers last year. He hit well in rookie ball and Class A, but his plans of playing in the Arizona Fall League were derailed by a staph infection that required minor elbow surgery.

Puig played in the Puerto Rican winter league, where he batted only .232. He blamed the disappointing numbers on his layoff.

"I went there to prepare myself for spring training," he said.

Asked about his confidence in his ability to play at the major league level, Puig said, "I'll work here in spring training to see if I'm prepared to be part of this team. That's my purpose, to play with Matt Kemp and all the great players here."

Sellers offers his side

Utility infielder Justin Sellers disputed the account of West Sacramento police regarding his arrest last month, which resulted in misdemeanor charges of reckless driving and evading police on his off-road motorcycle.

Sellers said he went on a ride-along with a friend who is a West Sacramento police officer. He was warned that other officers would give him a hard time — and they did, according to Sellers.

He was arrested two days later. Sellers said he wasn't driving recklessly and that he thought he was the victim of a prank when a police car pulled up behind him.

"They made it seem like I was on a wild chase, and I wasn't on a wild chase," Sellers said. "Not one time did I accelerate and speed away. I simply veered onto the dirt and continued to my house, hoping it would be the person who took me at the ride-along."

Sellers has a court date scheduled for next month but said he isn't expecting to have to leave camp to attend it.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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