If you're into circus metaphors, Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu is full of them.

He is juggling delicate objects: media obligations, clubhouse etiquette, a new language and a new culture. He is walking a tightrope: If he gets too confident in his past success, Ryu risks falling; if he gets too intimidated by the major leagues he also will fall.

Surrounded by throngs of Korean-language reporters that follow his every move, Ryu is the ringleader.

The act translates to any language, which is why Ryu's even demeanor and confidence have impressed the Dodgers' brass in such a short time at spring training.

"He sort of reminds me a little bit of Fernando (Valenzuela) as far as his presence, the overall presence," said Rick Honeycutt, the Dodgers' pitching coach and a teammate of Valenzuela from 1983-87. "I learned a lot from Fernando just the way he went about his business. It was like every day, `I do my job the best I can and I expect good results, but if it's bad results I'm not going to dwell on them.'

"He has that (presence) in him that's different."

Before Tuesday, when the 25-year-old southpaw faced live hitters for the first time at Camelback Ranch, the mythical elements of Ryu's background could propagate a certain presence.

Ryu was a right-hander until his father bought him a lefty's mitt at age 10 (he still holds chopsticks, plays ping-pong, writes and bats right-handed). He was an all-star in each of his seven seasons in the KBO, an unknown league to most baseball fans in the United States.