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Dodgers confident Hyun-Jin Ryu can do the job against Cardinals

Dodgers confident Hyun-Jin Ryu can do the job against Cardinals
Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu delivers a pitch against the San Francisco Giants on Sept. 12. (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images)

Game 4 starter Dan Haren will be ready in case Hyun-Jin Ryu falters in Game 3

— Their season essentially down to a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers will start a pitcher Monday who threw his last competitive pitch more than three weeks ago.

Ordinarily, this would concern Manager Don Mattingly.

Except that the scheduled Dodgers starter for Game 3 of a National League division series, Hyun-Jin Ryu, isn't an ordinary pitcher.

"If it wasn't Hyun-Jin, I would be a lot more nervous," Mattingly said.

The best-of-five series is tied at one game apiece.

The South Korean left-hander has drawn comparisons to former All-Star David Wells, not only because he shares Wells' heavyset build, but also because of his exceptional feel for the baseball. He has demonstrated the ability to maintain command of his pitches after extended layoffs, a gift that has allowed him to preserve his surgically repaired elbow by often skipping bullpen sessions between starts.

So although it's less than ideal that Ryu will make his most important start of the season on 23 days' rest, it's also not a reason for significant concern.

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Ryu's last game was Sept. 12, when irritation in his shoulder forced him to make an early departure from his start against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

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The problem wasn't new.

Ryu was sidelined for the first three weeks of May with a similar injury. He returned from the disabled list without pitching in minor league games, as most pitchers do. In his first game back, he beat the New York Mets, limiting them to two runs over six innings.

"This has happened in the past," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He's not somebody who we feel like needs a ton of work in between or a lot to get him back going again. So we're extremely confident."

And it's not as if Ryu hasn't thrown at all over the last three weeks.

He pitched a simulated game Wednesday and threw a bullpen session two days later.

"I tried to make sure I didn't do too much or too little," Ryu said through an interpreter. "I feel very confident right now. My arm feels really good. My shoulder feels really strong. And I have a pretty good feeling I'll be able to put in a good game tomorrow."

Ryu is confident his shoulder won't force him out of the game early.

"I'm thinking that there's very little, almost 0%, chance that the injury is going to come back tomorrow," he said. "I threw a few bullpen sessions and I went 100%. I felt great in all those sessions. I don't foresee why I would feel anything tomorrow."

Still, the Dodgers aren't taking any chances, which is why scheduled Game 4 starter Dan Haren will be available Monday as a long reliever.

Ryu made two starts in the playoffs last year as a rookie.

He lasted only three innings in the first, a division series start against the Atlanta Braves.

Eight days later, he pitched in Game 3 of the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals, who thought he was injured. Ryu lifted the Dodgers to their first victory of the series by blanking the Cardinals over seven innings.

"Surprisingly, it feels exactly like it did a year ago," Ryu said. "I know I've been pitching a lot more and I should be more confident, but the anxiety and the excitement is still the same. I'm sure tomorrow morning, it will probably kick into another gear."

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