Ryu to start LA opener; Hill has strained knee

Lefty to be followed in rotation by Stripling, Maeda, Buehler, Urias

March 22nd, 2019

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injuries to , and now have left to start Opening Day for the Dodgers, manager Dave Roberts announced on Friday. Ryu's start will come against the D-backs next Thursday at Dodger Stadium.

"At least we have clarity with that," said Roberts.

Hill suffered a medial collateral ligament strain in his left knee in Sunday's start, and he is expected to miss two weeks, Roberts said, joining Kershaw on the injured list to open the season.

Hill said he felt the injury four pitches from the end of his outing while dropping down to throw a sidearm pitch. He tried to throw a bullpen session on Tuesday, but he experienced discomfort. An MRI showed a Grade 1 strain.

"Right now, it's more optimistic than anything," Hill said. "Two weeks will save you three months of rehab and recovery. I don't want to go down the road of surgery. This is just the smart way to approach it and not derail the season."

Hill had planned to pitch on Saturday as a final tuneup for Opening Day. He compared the discomfort to a turned ankle, only in his knee.

"We kept hoping he would avoid the injured list," said Roberts. "He threw a bullpen [session] and felt it with the 33rd or 34th pitch, and we felt we had to take a step back. I know there's no structural damage from the test [MRI], I've heard. A couple weeks is fair."

Roberts, who originally gave Kershaw a ninth consecutive Opening Day start until his left shoulder came up sore, had been coy about naming an Opening Day replacement, it turns out, because of Hill’s injury. Kershaw is also expected to be sidelined several weeks.

Now, Ryu will be followed in the rotation by and , Buehler and Julio Urías, who had been sent to the bullpen to piggyback for Buehler.

"With Julio, the plan was to start him in the bullpen for the reasons we’ve discussed [limiting innings]," said Roberts. "But with the injury to Rich, Clayton on the injured list, there is a scenario where we could see Julio making a start. The world changes, as rosters do and you have to react."

Ryu, who turns 32 on Monday, will be the second Korean pitcher to make an Opening Day start for the Dodgers, 18 years after Chan Ho Park had the honor.

"It's definitely special, my first time in an Opening Day since I got to the States," said Ryu, who started "four or five" Opening Days in Korea. "I wasn't really thinking about it, nor was it my priority. My goal was to build up my pitch count and innings to be ready for the season. That wasn’t on my radar."

While it took injuries to Kershaw, Buehler and Hill for the start to fall to Ryu, and while it is more ceremonial than significant, it nonetheless is another marker in the left-hander's comeback from major left shoulder surgery that limited him to only one start over the 2015 and '16 seasons.

Even in 2018, Ryu missed three months with a torn groin muscle. But when he was on the mound, he was as effective as any Dodger. Ryu finished the season 7-3 with a 1.97 ERA in 15 starts and a 1.008 WHIP.

Ryu has been sharp this Spring Training with a 3.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts without a walk in 15 innings. Last year, he was 0-0 with a 3.75 ERA in three starts against Arizona and was 5-2 with a 1.15 ERA in nine starts at Dodger Stadium.Ryu is entering his seventh season with the Dodgers, having accepted the club’s $17.9 million qualifying offer instead of becoming a free agent during the offseason. He was a seven-time All-Star in Korea.