Ryu s

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Jon Weisman

It’s a long season as you know, and the Dodgers can benefit tremendously from the return of Hyun-Jin Ryu, even if he’s not on the active roster Opening Day.

So it’s all good that Ryu had a strong bullpen session today, as Ken Gurnick of MLB.com writes …

… “Each day we’re seeing more strength and especially today, the way he ended up with the last half-dozen he threw, it looked a lot more like him,” said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. “Still a ways to go, but you saw the effort. It was all positive.”

Ryu, recovering from left shoulder surgery that sidelined him the entire 2015 season, was pleased as well.

“Today was very good,” said Ryu. “I knew right away I felt great.”

President of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and manager Dave Roberts were among the onlookers. Earlier, Roberts speculated that Ryu is likely two weeks behind the other pitchers “by design,” as the club continues to lower expectations of Ryu being ready for the start of the season.

“We don’t want to push him,” said Roberts. “We’ve added depth to accommodate his schedule. To expect him to pitch 200 innings coming off shoulder surgery is not realistic.”…

Gurnick added that “while other pitchers are throwing bullpen sessions every two days, Ryu was given double the time to recover, with daily long-toss sessions designed to strengthen his recovering shoulder.”

Without Ryu, the Dodgers would still have Clayton Kershaw, Scott Kazmir, Brett Anderson, Kenta Maeda and Alex Wood as leading candidates for their starting rotation to open the season. With seven games before their first off day, unlike past years, the Dodgers can’t skip the No. 5 slot in the first go-round.

* * *

Wood, for his part, is raring to return to the starting rotation. He revealed to Bill Plunkett of the Register, for the first time to my knowledge, that he pitched with a bone bruise in his right ankle during his entire time with the Dodgers last season.

… “I had already gotten into some bad mechanical habits,” Wood said. “But the most important part of anybody’s mechanics is landing on your front side. I was getting outside my front foot because I was basically trying to find a way to not crush my foot every time I landed on it. At the same time, trying not to give up too much mechanically. It’s not easy.

“For me, I was either really, really good or – the consistency part of it wasn’t there. I’ve always been very consistent. Even on my bad days. I’ve never had too high highs or too low lows. I’ve always been pretty straight line. Last year was frustrating. … I had to work really hard this off-season to straighten some things out and I hope it pays off.”

Wood said the discomfort in his ankle persisted until December when he was finally able to go to work “to get everything put back together mechanically.” …

* * *

Elsewhere …

  • Gurnick profiled Joe Blanton, the one-time Dodger starter reborn as a reliever.

    The baseball flame was rekindled by accident. Pitcher Zack Duke moved down the street from Blanton after the 2014 season and needed a partner to play catch.

    “I just did it as a favor,” said Blanton. “But when I walked away from the game, I was healthy and I felt good throwing and my body had changed in a good way, putting back some pounds that I needed. Then I went to L.A. and met with [pitching consultant] Tom House and we worked on some mechanical things to correct.”

    Teammates Ryan Madson, Wade Davis and Chris Young were among those who counseled Blanton on the tricks of the relief trade, and the transition from starter was made easier than most.

    “I didn’t have to overcome the ego of a starter going to the bullpen because I had already thought I was done,” he said. “I had decided I wouldn’t play anymore, had taken it to the house, cashed it in for good. My heart wasn’t in it anymore after 2013. So when I came back, I just wanted to get back to the big leagues. I embraced a new chapter.”

    Ron Cervenka of Think Blue L.A. has more on Blanton.

  • Jimmy Rollins, who started more games than any Dodger last year except for Adrian Gonzalez and Joc Pederson, signed a minor-league contract with the White Sox.