The Los Angeles Dodgers were aware they’d need to find a replacement for Brandon McCarthy by Opening Day of the 2016 season as the right-hander would still be recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, another hole was created when Brett Anderson underwent surgery to repair a bulging disk in his back.
The two injuries, coupled with Hyun-Jin Ryu’s stop-and-go recovery from last year’s shoulder surgery, left the Dodgers in a bind. Alex Wood was a natural candidate to plug into the rotation, but it still left the club one starter short.
After weeks of evaluating their multitude of options, the Dodgers appeared to settle on Mike Bolsinger. However, on the day that decision was made, Bolsinger suffered an oblique strain that suddenly removed him from the equation.
Just over two weeks later, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts named Ross Stripling the fifth starter. Stripling, a fifth-round selection in the 2012 draft, was largely off the radar when Spring Training began. He naturally was overshadowed by the likes of Jose De Leon, Julio Urias and others.
While he currently anchors the end of the Dodgers’ rotation, Jim Callis of MLB.com believes Stripling can eventually become a No. 4 starter:
Though Stripling may be destined for middle relief this year once the Dodgers’ veterans regain their health, he could serve as a No. 4 starter in the future. He can throw strikes with four pitches, the best of which are his 12-to-6 curveball and his 89-93 mph fastball with cutting action.
Stripling is pitching on an innings limit this season that Roberts indicated may result in the 26 year old transitioning to the bullpen. Anderson, McCarthy and Ryu tentatively remain on track to return near the 2016 All-Star Game.
Stripling tossed 7.1 no-hit innings in his Major League debut, though his run at the history books was cut short after he walked Angel Pagan on his 100th pitch of the game. Stripling followed that with six innings of work (96 pitches) against the Arizona Diamondbacks six days later.
In his third start of the season, he labored and only managed to toss 3.2 innings, allowing three runs (two earned) and totaling four strikeouts. Stripling again wasn’t particularly sharp in his most recent outing, throwing 107 pitches in 5.1 innings.
Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, McCarthy, Ryu and Wood are slated to return next season. Scott Kazmir signed a three-year contract last December, but does have an opt-out clause after the first year.
Anderson accepted the one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer during the offseason. Stripling may also have to contend with Urias’ presence if he hopes to crack the 2017 rotation.