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Ryu continues to impress in rotation audition

Roberts, lefty deflect questions about potential relief role in October
MLB.com @kengurnick

PITTSBURGH -- Hyun-Jin Ryu didn't flirt with perfection on Thursday in the wake of Rich Hill's historically heartbreaking loss the night before, but Ryu did deliver another solid start in a year-long audition to remain in the Dodgers' starting rotation.

After six solid innings in a 5-2 Dodgers win over the Pirates, Ryu at 5-6 hasn't lost a start in six weeks. Since June 17, he has a 2.13 ERA.

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PITTSBURGH -- Hyun-Jin Ryu didn't flirt with perfection on Thursday in the wake of Rich Hill's historically heartbreaking loss the night before, but Ryu did deliver another solid start in a year-long audition to remain in the Dodgers' starting rotation.

After six solid innings in a 5-2 Dodgers win over the Pirates, Ryu at 5-6 hasn't lost a start in six weeks. Since June 17, he has a 2.13 ERA.

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"This guy's a competitor," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "On the heels of what Rich did last night, he was going to try to match it. I knew that coming in today. You could just see that focus. Hyun-Jin is a big-game pitcher. He's trying to earn continued opportunities, and you respect that."

But for September and into October, Ryu's role is uncertain, because in theory, the Dodgers have too many starting pitchers. Of course, that's just the theory. In fact, they have five starters currently on the disabled list -- Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir.

Darvish will be activated to start on Sunday, Kershaw makes a rehab start on Saturday and Wood is hopeful of returning next weekend. Kazmir and McCarthy are not in the current picture, but with Hill, Kenta Maeda and the returning trio, what becomes of Ryu?

Coming off two years of surgeries, Ryu came into Spring Training this year needing to prove to management he could still pitch and not break. So far, so good, but some think he could be an asset out of the bullpen.

Left-handed relief remains a puzzle for the Dodgers, even after the Deadline acquisitions of Tony Cingrani and Tony Watson, the latter retiring only one of three batters he faced on Thursday. Before Thursday's game, Roberts deflected a question about moving Ryu to the bullpen, but said if any starter is asked to change roles, he would be given game experience there during September.

Ryu also deflected a question about his future role.

"Right now, I'm not too concerned about that. I'm more concerned about my next outings," Ryu said. "If I put the team in position to win, I believe I'm doing my job. That's a decision I have no control over."

Ryu said he still has a ways to go "to get back to my 2013 form," specifically wanting to improve his command, be more economical with his pitches and get into the sixth and seventh innings more often. He came into this game averaging 5 1/3 innings per start, the same as Hill and Maeda.

Roberts, though, was more than satisfied after Ryu allowed one run on four hits and lowered his ERA to 3.34, better than Maeda (3.88) and just ticks higher than Hill (3.32).

"He was sharp," Roberts said. "Coming out, watching Rich pitch last night and seeing him be aggressive, the fastball played today against a fastball-hitting club. He was very efficient and we got him runs late. The command on the mound was good to see. The delivery he repeated, kept the ball down."

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Hyun-Jin Ryu