Park: Ryu can inspire with successful return

Former big leaguer pulling for Dodgers lefty to make full recovery from shoulder injury

Park: Ryu can inspire with successful return

PHOENIX -- Chan Ho Park, who blazed the trail that fellow Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu followed to the Dodgers, thinks Ryu can be as much of a role model returning to the starting rotation as he was while still in it.

Ryu is returning slowly from left shoulder surgery that sidelined him the entire 2015 season. Park, in his role as a television baseball commentator, came to Camelback Ranch-Glendale on Friday to watch Ryu throw only his third time off a mound in three weeks.

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Park, now 42 years old, looked fit enough to join the competition to replace Ryu. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt implied as much when he joked with Park to suit up and throw a bullpen session.

Park, a 17-year Major League veteran, wasn't kidding when he said Ryu can have as much impact in Korea with a successful comeback as he did by going 28-15 in his first two seasons with the Dodgers.

"Young players watched him and saw you can make the Major Leagues, but it's even more important now for young pitchers to see his recovery and see him come back and pitch well," said Park. "Many young pitchers in Korea are injured and stop playing and we never see how good they can be. And we don't have that many like Ryu.

"So we need to learn from Ryu and from the Dodgers and their system to save our young pitchers. That's my hope and dream. If I opened the door for pitchers to come over here and play, he can open the door for pitchers to recover from injury and return."

The Dodgers are all for that. Nobody expected the recovery from last May's labrum surgery to take this long. Leading up to the start of Spring Training, Ryu insisted he expected to be ready for Opening Day and set a goal of making 30 starts and pitching 200 innings.

Now the club hedges on any timetable for his return. Park said when Ryu returns isn't as important as how he returns.

"I told him, 'Don't drive too fast,' meaning he should make sure he's 100 percent when he returns, not 99 percent," Park said. "Korean players, they want to play when they're hurt. Sometimes you look brave, but it's not a smart idea. It's bad for yourself and bad for your team. Hyun-Jin understands he has to be smart and do it the right way. He's been pitching with soreness in the past, but now he needs to be 100 percent."

Park and Ryu were Hanwha Eagles teammates in 2012, Park's final season professionally and Ryu's final season in Korea.

"He was the No. 1 pitcher in Korea and a team leader," said Park. "It was great to play, I learned a lot about playing in Korea and I talked to him a lot about playing in the Major Leagues because you never know, and one year later he's in the big leagues.

"I hope I can be [an inspiration to Ryu]. The Korean players over here, they are like my children and I want them all to do well. I give them as much advice as I can and my mission is to bring more Korean players here, and their mission is to do well so more players come to the Major Leagues."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.