Prior to it becoming apparent the Los Angeles Dodgers would need to tap into their depth, manager Dave Roberts named Ross Stripling as the club’s sixth starter. So when Clayton Kershaw was ruled out for Opening Day and tracking to begin the season on the 10-day injured list, Stripling moved into the rotation.
It didn’t require much of an adjustment for the right-hander as he had already been building up as a starter during Spring Training. Stripling wasn’t overly sharp in his regular-season debut, but still managed to keep the Diamondbacks off the board.
He reached 5.1 shutout innings on 76 pitches, when Roberts came with what seemed to be somewhat of a premature hook. Though, Scott Alexander retired David Peralta and Adam Jones, and the Dodgers’ 3-0 lead remained intact.
It was eventually erased, and so too was a second lead, as the Diamondbacks forced the game into extras before coming away with a win in 13 innings. Stripling, who didn’t factor into the decision, admitted to being caught off guard with Roberts removing him, via SportsNet LA:
“They didn’t tell me anything ahead time, if I was on a 75-pitch count or anything like that. I knew that I was on regular rest heading into the next start and that they might limit it a little bit because of that, but I didn’t know anything ahead of time. When I got pulled, they just said that was the plan. … I was a little bit (surprised) just in that it was a quick groundout, 3-0 lead. (But) understand you’ve got the heart of the lineup coming up and a lefty warming up in the bullpen, so I get it. I was a little bit surprised but I understand. That’s just the way it went.”
Like Stripling noted, Roberts cited the left-handed hitting Peralta coming up as one reason Alexander was summoned out of the bullpen. Another was that Roberts estimated Stripling’s pitch count peaked around 65 pitches during Spring Training. Roberts stood by his decisions, despite the end result.
The Dodgers have often resorted to removing a starter prematurely rather than potentially leave him in longer than proves to be optimal. Stripling quickly got acquainted with the practice, as he was removed with one out in the seventh inning of a no-hitter in 2016.
Stripling threw 100 pitches in his MLB debut and was on a stringent pitch count because of Tommy John surgery 14 months prior.