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Greinke, Ryu get first spring look at hitters

Greinke, Ryu get first spring look at hitters

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Hyun-Jin Ryu was the best pitcher in Korea, so it wasn't normal for anybody to tell him how to grip and release a curve ball.

But Sandy Koufax isn't just anybody, and Ryu didn't seem to mind a bit when it happened on Tuesday.

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"I always want to learn from the best, especially what Sandy Koufax has to offer," Ryu said through interpreter Charlie Kim. "But I need to have a feel for the pitch. Just because it works for Sandy Koufax doesn't mean it will work for me."

For the curve ball, Ryu's third-best pitch, Koufax suggested that he hold the ball deeper in his hand. Ryu respectfully soaked in the tutorial and said that Koufax will work with him during his next bullpen session, probably on Thursday.

The brief meeting of the two left-handers took place moments after Ryu -- and that other offseason acquisition, Zack Greinke -- faced hitters for the first time this spring. Each pitched two innings in preparation for their first game appearance, against the White Sox on Sunday, when Greinke will start and Ryu will follow.

"All the hitters said the changeup was really good," said Wilkin Castillo, a non-roster invitee who caught Ryu. "His fastball is sneaky. He was throwing inside to lefties, and he had control of his fastball to both sides. And when he missed, he missed away, not over the plate."

Infielder Nick Evans, another non-roster invitee, had the honor of facing both pitchers.

"Obviously, two different kinds of pitchers," said Evans. "Greinke showed more power and a lot of movement. The ball was coming in pretty firm. Ryu had a good change. You could tell that's one of his best pitches. Both know what they're doing."

Ryu indicated that Koufax is a magical name on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, too.

"I know about him quite well," said Ryu. "As a matter of fact, Sandy Koufax is a legend. Everyone in Korea is aware. I know he didn't have a long career, but he was able to accomplish greatly in a short span."

Ryu has done pretty well as a dominant lefty, especially considering he's a natural right-hander who learned to throw with his left hand because the first glove he ever received, from his rugby-playing father, was a left-hander's glove.

"He said it would be an advantage to be left-handed," Ryu said.

Manager Don Mattingly, who is similarly ambidextrous, said that the closest comparison he has found for Ryu is a young David Wells -- not only by size but also pitch style, as Wells augmented an outstanding changeup with a fastball legitimate enough to keep hitters honest.

"[Ryu's] kind of got that body type and the easy delivery," said Mattingly. "I can't say he's got the [Wells] breaking ball, but he's got command, and the ball comes out of his hand pretty good. I see he kind of throws the ball where he wants. He'll definitely be a guy who pitches off his fastball."

Ryu seems to be quickly adapting to both his club and his clubhouse. He's made friends among his teammates, doesn't hesitate jumping in for a game of ping-pong and is already picking up English, even to the point of responding to some questions with one- or two-word English answers.

Greinke was pretty much what a Cy Young winner should be in his session. He was caught by Jesus Flores, also a non-roster invitee but an accomplished one, having been the starter for the Nationals and a pitching staff that includes Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann.

"Great command," said Flores. "He was hitting his spots, for the first time facing hitters. Zack has experience and knowledge compared with guys like Strasburg and Gonzalez, who are great but are still learning the game. You can see Zack has a plan, and he's working on that. He's not out there trying to impress anybody."

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

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