Ryu Hyun-jin of the Los Angeles Dodgers made a triumphant return home on Tuesday following a successful rookie season in Major League Baseball.
Greeted by hundreds of fans at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, the left-hander said he had the fondest memories of his first regular season win, his first complete game shutout and also his first playoff victory this year.
"I'd like to give myself 99 points (out of 100) for this season," said the smiling Ryu, who went 14-8 during the regular season with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts. He also wears No. 99 on the back of his jersey.
"My goal next year is to get to 10 victories in the early part of the season," Ryu added.
Ryu earned his first big league win in his second start on April 7 against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He gave up two earned runs on three hits in 6 1/3 innings and struck out six in the Dodgers' 6-2 victory. He had his first shutout against the Los Angeles Angels on May 28.
He also made two starts in the playoffs and went 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings. On Oct. 14, Ryu became the first South Korean to win a big league postseason game when he threw seven shutout innings against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, as the Dodgers won 3-0.
After signing a six-year, US$36 million contract with the Dodgers last December, Ryu gave the National League West champions a steady dose of solid starts.
He pitched 192 innings and had 154 strikeouts against 49 walks.
Among NL rookies, he ranked first in innings pitched and quality starts, and second in ERA.
In his 30 starts, he failed to pitch at least five innings only once. He gave up three or fewer earned runs in 25 starts, and had one complete game shutout on May 28 against the Los Angeles Angels.
A model of consistency, Ryu went 7-3 in the first half and 7-5 after the All-Star break.
Before joining the Dodgers, Ryu pitched seven mostly dominant seasons with the Hanwha Eagles in the Korea Baseball Organization. He was voted the league MVP and the Rookie of the Year in 2006 after 18-6 with a 2.23 ERA and 204 strikeouts in 201 2/3 innings.
After the Eagles agreed to post Ryu for a silent auction among big league clubs, the Dodgers won the right to negotiate with the pitcher with the bid of $25.7 million. Ryu is the first South Korean player to move to MLB via the posting system. (Yonhap News)