Ross Stripling went into Spring Training this year in the familiar role of serving as depth for starting rotation and a versatile relief pitcher. Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts identified Stripling as the pitcher who would fill in if a member of the rotation was injured.
That became a reality when Clayton Kershaw fell victim to shoulder inflammation, which rendered him incapable of extending his franchise record with a ninth consecutive start. Kershaw began on the 10-day injured list, and Stripling started the second game of the season.
He turned in a strong outing and looked to build on that Wednesday night against the San Francisco Giants. Stripling was in the midst of doing just that, needing just 27 pitches and facing the minimum through three scoreless innings.
The fourth saw an entirely different story, however, as the Giants batted around and took a 3-2 lead. Stripling was stressed for 34 pitches in the inning and escaped a bases-loaded jam.
He spoke with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt prior to heading back out for the fifth, which Stripling credited for his being able to settle back into the game, via SportsNet LA:
“We were kind of just going through each guy. I mean, I think I faced the whole lineup that inning, so it was just kind of going over each one — what we did right, what we did wrong. Talking about I’m about to face those same guys again who just hit homers; what we can do differently that go-around. That’s where Honey is just amazing with his gameplan and the scouting. He was able to get me back on track. I went out there and was able to have a quick fifth and get us back in the dugout.”
Stripling struck out a pair and stranded a single in the fifth inning, then set the Giants down in order in the sixth. He also retired Erik Kratz to start the seventh before giving way to a Dodgers bullpen that answered the bell after spotty performances of late.
Although Kershaw and Rich Hill are on the mend from their respective injuries, Stripling appears poised to remain part of the rotation until both return. Roberts has already said Julio Urias would be removed once Kershaw or Hill is activated off the IL.
Stripling has yet to earn a decision in either of his two starts this season, but has pitched to a respectable 2.31 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, and held opponents to a .209 batting average over 11.2 innings.