When the Los Angeles Dodgers opened camp this year they had several starting pitchers competing for the two remaining spots in the rotation. The picture began to sort itself out as the days and weeks wore one, with Ross Stripling becoming one of the first options no longer under consideration.
It was not doom and gloom for the right-hander, however. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Stripling instead was vying for a spot on the active roster as a long reliever. When the final spot in the rotation boiled down to Brandon McCarthy or Alex Wood, with the loser of the competition bound for the bullpen, there was some thought it spelled trouble for Stripling.
But Roberts said the team would carry two long relievers come Opening Day. So while Stripling made the team, three of his four appearances this season have come in high-leverage situations.
Essentially falling into the fold as a relief pitcher without a set role, the 27-year-old is nonetheless enjoying himself, per Todd Bailey of the Southern California News Group:
“I just figured there’d be value in a guy being able to go two or three innings every couple days. … I still feel I have starter stuff, but I’m enjoying this.”
Stripling entered Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Cubs in the seventh inning. He inherited a 1-0 lead and looked to follow a second quality start from Brandon McCarthy. All Stripling did was bookend a 1-2-3 inning with strikeouts.
He remained in the game in the eighth and likely would have completed a second scoreless inning, if not for Corey Seager’s throw skipping off Adrian Gonzalez’s glove. Stripling battled Jon Jay in an 11-pitch at-bat that ended with the outfielder striking out.
Stripling was removed after 1.2 innings. Since allowing one run on four hits over two innings in his 2017 debut, Stripling has tallied 4.1 perfect innings. Overall this season he’s struck out 10 of 23 batters faced in 6.1 innings.
During the Dodgers road trip, Stripling has faced Nolan Arenado and Kris Bryant as the first batters upon entering a game, and retired both.