SEOUL (Reuters) - Not being able to speak English has been a source of frustration for Dodgers starting pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin since arriving in Los Angeles two years ago, but it has also had its upsides.
The 27-year-old, who has earned the third spot in the Dodgers rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, said he had been able to strike up close friendships with other foreign players such as Dominican Juan Uribe.
And not being able to understand everything that was said about him at stadiums on the road was also a plus, he added.
“I’m not sure if I’ve got a lot better than before but I can understand what other players are saying now,” Ryu said at an event for fans in Seoul on Tuesday.
“But it still make me sad that I can’t speak well. I call my interpreter when I get frustrated.”
Ryu said there were several players on the Dodgers roster who did not speak English as their native tongue and they had gone through the same problems he had.
“If I had been able to speak English perfectly then I might not have been able to hang around with those players,” he said.
“I just really wanted to communicate with them, so even though my English wasn’t perfect I was able to be close with them.
“And when we go on the road, the fans use bad language but I don’t care because I don’t understand them,” he added with a laugh.
The lefty, who has a six-year, $36 million contract with Los Angeles, paid tribute to countryman Park Chan-ho, the first South Korean-born player to pitch in Major League Baseball.
Park pitched for the Dodgers from 1994-2001 and also had stints with the Yankees, Rangers, Padres, Mets, Pirates and Phillies in his trailblazing career.
“When I was in third grade Park Chan-ho was playing in the Major Leagues,” said Ryu. “He taught me that even a Korean can be successful in Major League Baseball, he helped me dream.
“Park also told me that he played even when he was injured and just endured the pain because he was the very first Korean player. I think he played with so much responsibility.”
Ryu had his own struggles with injury last season, including one that still makes him cringe.
“I was playing against the Atlanta Braves when suddenly I injured my right buttock,” he recalled. “I threw a few balls trying to bear the pain but I couldn’t stand it.
“So I had to call the coach even though it was so embarrassing.”
Ryu concedes it was disheartening to get injured and watch others take his starts, but knew he had to protect himself from longer-term problems.
“Obviously it’s difficult when you get injured during the season,” he added.
“But I think of it as a sign from my body to prevent me from having another bigger injury. So I make sure I undergo rehabilitation to get myself back into top shape.”
Writing by Peter Rutherford; additional reporting by Kahyun Yang; Editing by Julian Linden