Hyun-Jin Ryu says no to WBC; priority is Dodgers

By this time last year, Hyun-Jin Ryu was already well into spring training.

Teams in the Korean Baseball Organization begin training in mid-January. It was 32 degrees Monday in Daejeon, where Ryu’s former team, the Hanwha Eagles, play. Because of frosty weather back home, teams in Korea typically go abroad for spring training.

In recent years, Ryu has trained in Arizona, Japan and, last year, Hawaii.

Like everything else this season for Ryu, the pitcher the Dodgers signed to a six-year, $36 million contract in December, spring training will be a new set of experiences. Because he is intent on acclimating as quickly as possible, Ryu made the difficult decision of saying no when he was asked to represent Korea in the World Baseball Classic.

As a 22-year old in 2009, Ryu had a 2.57 ERA in the inaugural WBC, where the Koreans finished as runners up.

“It’s actually very difficult to make that decision,” Ryu said through an interpreter. “I felt my first priority was getting with the team, getting to know the new system and becoming friends with the players and coaches. If the event was next year or the year after, I would have gladly competed, but right now my top priority is to be a Dodger.”

Ryu began his throwing program over the weekend, but he said he has spent the past several months in Southern California getting his body ready for spring training.

“In America, by the time you go to camp, you have to be fit and ready to go,” he said.