The Dodgers don't know quite what to expect from Hyun-Jin Ryu this season, but the left-hander revealed Monday what he expects of himself.
As he prepared to catch a flight to Los Angeles, Ryu told reporters at Incheon International Airport in South Korea that he fully expects to be a part of the Dodgers rotation come opening day.
Ryu had shoulder surgery on his left labrum in May, and at least historically the return from such a surgery is something less than automatic. But his surgery did not include rotator cuff repair, dramatically increasing his chances for returning to form.
"My rehab has been going well and I've been taking each step without a problem," Ryu said, according to a report by the Yonhap News Agency. "I think I should be able to get in good enough shape to be ready for spring training."
Earlier this winter, Ryu was working out most days at Dodger Stadium and was looking good, according to teammate Adrian Gonzalez.
"He's definitely lost some weight," the first baseman said.
And Gonzalez was confident that Ryu would return to form quickly and wouldn't need a lot of physical training.
"He's fine," Gonzalez said. "He can pick up the ball and throw nine innings without doing anything."
Ryu twice went on the disabled list in 2014 because of a shoulder problem and was shut down after two games during spring training last year, sitting out the 2015 regular season.
Despite his outward optimism, Ryu promised not to force his comeback.
"If I throw in the bullpen and continue to work hard, I may be able to pitch in preseason," he said. "But I will try not to rush things too much.
"My biggest goal this year is to join the rotation at the beginning of the season and stay there until the end of the season. I haven't set any statistical goals for myself."
Ryu, who will turn 29 in March, was the Dodgers' No. 3 pitcher during his first two seasons with the team, posting a combined record of 28-15 with a 3.17 earned-run average and 1.19 WHIP. Should he return to form, the Dodgers could have a surplus of starting pitching.
Since they lost Zack Greinke to the Arizona Diamondbacks, they have signed starters Scott Kazmir and Kenta Maeda. Add them to ace Clayton Kershaw and returners Brett Anderson, Alex Wood and Ryu, and the Dodgers could potentially have one too many starters for a five-man rotation.
Ryu will be watched carefully in spring training. With five other starters, the Dodgers can afford to take a cautious approach with his recovery.
The addition of Ryu and Maeda would recall the late 1990s, when the Dodgers had South Korea's Chan Ho Park and Japan's Hideo Nomo in the rotation. Maeda won his second pitcher of the year award in Japan last season.
"Hopefully, we'll stay healthy all season and help the team win the division," Ryu said. "I remember Park and Nomo both had good seasons with the Dodgers, and I hope we can duplicate that."
Ryu has three years left on his original six-year, $36-million contract.