When the Los Angeles Dodgers reported to Camelback Ranch for the start of Spring Training in February, the only pitchers guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation were Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and David Price.
That left the likes of Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May, Jimmy Nelson, Ross Stripling, Julio Urias and Alex Wood vying for the final two spots. By the second week of March, Urias and Wood were named the fourth and fifth starters, respectively.
“I was disappointed at the time, because I remember wanting to feel like I had an opportunity to go earn a rotation spot, and I was being told that I would get that opportunity,” Stripling said.
“I felt that I didn’t really get a fair shake on trying to earn that spot. That’s not saying Julio and Alex didn’t deserve it. Heck man, we’ve got seven or eight guys that can be in our starting rotation, so it’s certainly not a shot at them.
“It’s just I expected it to be more of an ongoing battle for a position throughout Spring Training and it was announced just a few games in. And I was disappointed I found out through the media before anyone told me in person. They have since come to me and said, ‘We should’ve told you in person first.’ So that was totally fine and there’s no issues with that.”
Now that Price has opted out of playing the 2020 season, another opportunity has opened, and Stripling could be primed to benefit. “I’ve been in this situation before where I’m kind of the odd man out for a rotation spot,” he said.
“If someone gets hurt of skips a start, whatever it might be, I’ve always said I want my name to be in the bucket as much as anyone else’s. I think I’m as built up as probably anyone around baseball. I’ve got four innings [Monday], so theoretically by July 23, I should be ready for six innings or maybe more.
“As long as I feel like I’m getting an opportunity as much as anyone else to fill in for David, that’s great. We’ll see how it shakes out.”
In addition to making it clear he hopes to be part of competition to replace Price, Stripling again emphasized he’s perfectly comfortable in his back-and-forth role. “As a guy that’s done this for five years, it’s kind of been my thing from the start, like, ‘Look, I like this role. I think I found a nice niche where I can start or relieve, I can get you one out in the eighth or go four innings of long relief to bridge a short start,'” he said.
“I’m totally fine with that. I like it. I think it’s a unique role and I enjoy being good at it. But I do want a heads up if that role is changing or a decision is being made that kind of directly affects my role. I’ve always been outspoken about that. That’s just not the way it went down in Spring Training. I was not angry at Doc, I was not angry at Andrew Friedman.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts did not commit to a replacement for Price, only acknowledging that Stripling, Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May would be evaluated moving forward.
Stripling wishes Price well
The Dodgers have collectively continued to voice their support of Price, with Stripling the latest to do so. “Certainly can’t fault David for putting his family and health as priority No. 1,” he said.
“I’m sure that was not an easy decision and one that weighed on him. I know that he loved our locker room and was excited to be a Dodger. He chose to put his health and his family’s health above playing baseball this year.
“No one in our locker room — staff, players — is going to judge him or think differently of him as a character or human being. We’ll miss him, that’s for sure.”
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