(Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)
After being probably the biggest question mark encompassing most of the Dodgers’ spring camp, manager Dave Roberts finally named the fifth starter in the pitching rotation Friday afternoon, announcing that 26-year old righty Ross Stripling will take the hill on April 8 against the Giants.
Eric Stephen of True Blue LA pointed out that Stripling “will be the first Dodgers pitcher — excluding international free agents with professional experience elsewhere — to make an opening day roster as a starting pitcher with zero service time since Don Sutton in 1966.”
Stripling joins the Dodgers’ 25-man roster after first being named to the 40-man roster back in November as a means of protecting him from Rule 5 status.
According to a number of conversations between Roberts and reporters a day prior to the unveiling, Stripling will not be evaluated solely on his first appearance, but rather at least “a couple” of starts before the team would need to seek other options.
Stripling took a few moments from his very busy spring schedule a little over a week ago to sit down with TBPC‘s own Jeremy Davis, answering a long list of fan-driven questions ranging anywhere from his favorite music to his superstitions to his mental approaches on the pitcher’s mound.
While the majority of fans were pulling for Stripling to win the spot over teammate Carlos Frias, many pundits, including the brain trust of this blog, predicted that Frias would come out on top prior to the news on Friday.
Frias was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City where he will begin the season in the starting rotation, not in the bullpen or as a long man, as various outlets had anticipated.
Stripling was on the doorstep of the big league rotation when a damaged UCL during spring training in 2014 required him to have Tommy John Surgery, wiping out his entire season. He would bounce back in 2015 pitching well for Double-A Tulsa, and after a very successful spring camp this year, finally earned a spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.
His most productive season in the minors came pre-surgery, making 21 appearances for Double-A Chattanooga in 2013. He posted a 2.78 ERA and a 1.170 WHIP over 94 innings of work, compiling six wins as a starter and one save as a reliever.
As far as pitch selection, Stripling’s four-seamer may not be the fastest on the radar gun, but his arsenal of breaking pitches is just plain nasty. He has solid command of four quality pitches — his fastball, which he can locate anywhere in the zone, a really vicious, hard slider, a changeup with a ton of movement, and his trademark plus-plus curveball that has a crazy amount of break.
Roberts told Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider (an amazing article, by the way) that Stripling would be on a set innings limit for the season, and it was his plentiful, yet diverse repertoire of pitches that ultimately landed him the spot in the rotation.
“He’s gonna be on an innings limit (as far as the entire season goes), but where we’re at as far as the state of our rotation, it’s more of a necessity for him to start the season with us,” Roberts said.
“All three guys (Stripling, Frias and Zach Lee) are more than capable. But I think that overall it was Ross’ ability to command a fastball, and have a good curveball and a plus changeup, and also the slider. I think that he’s got weapons, so now when you couple that with a game plan, that gives us the best chance to win on that fifth day.”
In his first major league start, Stripling will likely be opposing either Matt Cain or Jake Peavy when the Dodgers travel to San Francisco next Friday.