LOS ANGELES (AP) — Catcher A. J. Ellis knew it wasn't just another night at the ballpark. As soon as Ryu Hyun-jin made his first pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ellis took the ball out of play to mark the South Korean's debut in Major League Baseball.
Ryu's first start of the season on Tuesday helped draw 45,431 fans to see the left-hander who signed a $36 million, six-year deal with the team in December, making him the first player to go directly from the Korea Baseball Organization to the major leagues.
The game was televised live in South Korea, where it began at 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday.
"I definitely felt the pressure," Ryu said through a translator. "It was the first time I felt that in a very long time."
Madison Bumgarner overshadowed Ryu by pitching two-hit ball over eight innings to give the San Francisco Giants a 3-0 victory.
Ryu (0-1) gave up three runs — one earned — and 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings, struck out five and walked none. He threw 80 pitches.
"Their hitters were pretty aggressive in the early part of at-bats," he said. "I couldn't really get my timing."
Ryu gave up just two fly-ball outs and worked hard to get out of other jams. The Dodgers' defense helped him, too, turning three double plays. He retired the side in the sixth.
"He got in some tough jams and was able to get himself out," Ellis said. "It was a great test for him. When he needed to make a big pitch, it was the changeup that bailed us out of some situations."
Ellis said Ryu's fastball command is his greatest strength and he has a good slider, too. His curveball needs work, though.
"He kept his composure and kept attacking the zone, which is what we want to see," Ellis said.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly came to the mound with a translator after Ryu allowed consecutive hits to open the seventh. After a brief conversation, Ryu responded by getting Andres Torres to ground out.
However, Mattingly immediately returned to remove him and Ryu walked off the field to loud applause.
"I don't think he was as sharp as he's been in spring training," Mattingly said. "He's going to give up his share of hits. That's not a concern."
However, the crowd booed when Ryu didn't run out a ground ball hard in the sixth.
"It was embarrassing and I feel I should apologize for that," Ryu said. "That was actually my mistake. Now I know I have to run a lot harder. I learned my lesson."
The Dodgers paid $25.7 million for the right to negotiate with Ryu. If they hadn't reached a deal by the deadline, he would have returned to the KBO's Hanwha Eagles and the Dodgers would have been refunded the posting fee they paid for exclusive rights to negotiate with the 26-year-old pitcher.
"This guy was the greatest player in his entire country," Ellis said. "He's really special and he's going to have a great major league career."
Ellis is working to learn a few Korean phrases that he can use with Ryu during games when the translator can't come out to the mound.
So far, Ellis only knows how to say hello, a greeting Ryu loves to give everyone he sees.
"We're here to make his transition as smooth as possible," Ellis said. "He's not somebody from Korea, he's a Dodger."
Giants manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with Ryu.
"He kept his poise and made some pitches. He had good secondary pitches to go with his fastball," Bochy said. "We knew he was a good pitcher. We just hadn't seen him."
Ryu had already pitched at Dodger Stadium during the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when South Korea won a silver medal.