Ryu and Trayce working their way back to you Babe
Two key players who the Dodgers are hoping to contribute in 2017 but not counting on are doing their best to be parts of the World Champion effort of 2017.
“Right now, I’d say I am in better shape than I normally would be at the start of spring training,” Ryu told reporters at Incheon International Airport. “I threw four bullpen sessions a day while training in Japan. I have no pain at the moment.”
Being pain-free before throwing consistently from the mound is a different beast all-together, but that is the first step. Some pitchers never even get to that step after undergoing all the surgeries that Ryu has had over the past two seasons.
Once Ryu shows up for spring training he will still need to answer two major questions.
- Can Ryu step up his pain-free progress to the point he can join a rotation?
- Even if Ryu is pain-free and shows he can make 100 pitches an outing, are those pitches going to be good enough to help a Dodger rotation?
There are many Ryu doubters and with good reasons. The pitchers who have come back from shoulder issues and continued to be as good as they were before the shoulder surgery is a small number. All Dodger fans are hoping the doubters are wrong and that Ryu can pick up where he left off in October of 2014.
The best big three this team has had in the 21st century might have been the 2014 version of Kershaw/Greinke/Ryu. On Sept 6th, Ryu pitched his last regular season major league gem. He would only pitch one inning the rest of the season but would come back on Oct 6th to pitch the Dodgers to a 1 – 1 tie over six innings in the pivotal game three of the NLDS. The Dodgers would lose that game 3 – 1 when Elbert and company gave up two runs in the 7th. It was the last time Ryu would pitch a major league game until last summer when he briefly showed up to pitch four innings.
Ryu was a joy to have on the team in 2013 and 2014. More than any Dodger trying to find their way onto the Dodger team in 2017, he’s the one I’m rooting for.
Trayce Thompson had his season cut short last year on July 10th. Acquired in the big three-way deal last winter he is the only player still remaining with the team from that trade. Trayce was supposed to offer the Dodgers a solid right-handed bat against left-hand pitching while being able to play every outfield position. He did play all over the outfield 32 in CF, 28 in RF, and 24 in LF. He wasn’t the defensive savant we had been told about but he was adequate in CF, looked good in RF and LF. He has the speed, but not the instincts to be a good CF. His bat against left-hand pitching is what didn’t fit the bill. In 2015 he punished left-hand pitchers with a .998 OPS. For the Dodgers that dropped to .708.
He said he is now taking batting practice and has begun light jogging with no setbacks. Thompson said his target date to be 100 percent healthy is March 1, in time for Spring Training games to join a crowded outfield.
Supposedly the back started bothering him in Mid May. At that point, Trayce was looking like the future and present Dodger left fielder. Andre Ethier was out and it was Thompson’s job to claim. Then Puig got hurt and Trayce got to play RF everyday. On June 6th he got his OPS up to .925 and everything was great in La La land for Trayce. That was his peak, and from June 7th to the time he went on the DL he hit only .173 / .242 / .309 /.551.
When Trayce comes to spring training he has several things to prove.
- Is his problematic back healthy?
- Is he the guy who crushed LHP in 2015 or the guy who struggled against them in 2016?
- Can he beat out Ruf/SVS for a spot on the major league roster?
- Can he be an everyday outfielder for a contending team?
- If not an everyday outfielder can he be the main platoon player for Andre or Toles or Joc?
The Dodgers will be a better team if the 2015 White Sox and April/May/June Dodger version of Trayce is the better barometer of his ability. His brother has a trophy, if Trayce is that version, it will make the odds of him getting his own trophy, all that higher.