by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
Last Wednesday, Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu decided to undergo shoulder surgery to figure out what was wrong with his shoulder and shut himself down for the season. Ryu’s shoulder issues have flared up in his first two seasons with the Dodgers, and the surgery seemed like a good option with a long term goal in mind.
But at a press conference on Friday, Ryu revealed there was precedence for all his shoulder problems: He had been pitching the last two years with a torn labrum. Ryu and the Dodgers had known about the injury before the team signed the pitcher in the winter of 2012. They both knew, Ryu said, following the initial MRI the Dodgers asked him to undergo prior to the contract signing.
Through an interpreter, Ryu added that it was his decision to pitch, even though he was usually in pain. “I can’t really pick a certain date [when I pitched pain-free], but there were certain times without pain,” Ryu said.
Then-Dodgers general manager signed Ryu to a six-year, $36 million contract, along with the $26 million posting fee, despite knowing the nature of the southpaw’s shoulder. Still, the first two years have been a clear win on the investment, as Ryu slotted in comfortably and effectively behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and helped lead the Dodgers to consecutive National League West division titles, not to mention galvanized the Korean fanbase.
Zach Helfand at the Los Angeles Times noted the instances when Ryu’s shoulder issues first began coming into play: A “mysterious bullpen conclave” during the 2013 National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves before Ryu’s start, then his stint on the disabled list to begin the 2014 season with “shoulder inflammation” before being shut down in September.
Leading up to the 2015 season, the Dodgers shut Ryu down in March during spring training—this time due to “shoulder irritation.” Ryu was planning to return sometime in May or even June, but the team shut him down again when he didn’t show any improvement in arm strength.
Ryu still has a tough hill to climb—shoulder operations are considered much riskier than elbow procedures—but the Dodgers expect the pitcher to be ready for spring training next year. Manager Don Mattingly told the Los Angeles Times that after speaking with head athletic trainer Stan Conte, the damage to Ryu’s shoulder appeared to be “relatively minor.”
Featured image via Yahoo News/Getty Images