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Dodgers pitcher Ryu looks forward to making debut in Major League

LOS ANGELES--Hyun-Jin Ryu is following in the footsteps of former major league pitcher Chan Ho Park, who inspired him and countless other South Korean kids who dreamed about getting to the big leagues.

Ryu is slated to make his official debut Tuesday on the same mound where Park threw his first pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 1994.

Park spent 17 seasons in the majors before retiring at the end of the 2010 campaign with a 124-98 record, 4.36 ERA and 1,715 strikeouts. He spent his first eight big league campaigns with Los Angeles, making his official debut with a mop-up ninth inning in Kent Mercker's no-hitter for the Atlanta Braves at Dodger Stadium, and once gave up two grand slams in one inning by the St. Louis Cardinals' Fernando Tatis.

Now it's Ryu's turn to be the darling of the large Korean population in Southern California — without the grand slams.

“I followed his career a pretty good deal,” Ryu said through a translator on Friday before an exhibition game against the Angels. “I was only in grade school when Chan Ho was pitching, but I do remember waking up in the early mornings just to catch some of the games. He is definitely a role model for me and as lot of my peers in baseball who are a similar age. All of us started playing baseball because we were inspired by Chan Ho Park back in the day.”

The 25-year-old left-hander had a solid spring training, going 2-2 with a 3.29 ERA in six starts and one relief outing. He retired all 12 batters he faced Thursday night at Angel Stadium, combining with six relievers on a two-hitter. Last Saturday, he held the Chicago White Sox to one hit over seven innings in a 10-4 victory while retiring 17 of his last 18 batters.

“He's kind of been as advertised to this point,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He's been pretty good and he's had a really nice spring. He pitches quick and does everything you want him to do. So as we keep moving forward, I think everybody's pretty confident this guy knows what he's doing and he's ready to go.”

Ryu agreed to a US$36 million, six-year contract with the Dodgers after they bid US$25.7 million to win exclusive rights to negotiate with him. He will become the first player to go directly from the Korean league to the major leagues when he makes his big league debut next week against the World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

“He's very poised, very confident, and obviously he's got good stuff,” Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. “Each outing seems to be sharper and sharper, which is what you want going into the season. His last three or four outings can't be much sharper than what it's been. His fastball command has been there, and the velocity is starting to creep up with it, so it's a good combination. His breaking stuff is definitely improving, and the changeup is also there, so that's got to be in the back of your mind, too.”

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin delivers in the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California, Thursday, March 28.

(AP)

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