(Photo Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)
Despite appearing as if his season would be completely shut down back in May, rookie pitcher Ross Stripling endured almost a month of rehab in the scorching heat of Arizona, and now finds himself contributing much-needed, quality innings to the Dodgers‘ big league bullpen.
In an effort to add a fresh arm, Stripling was recalled to the Dodgers last Saturday at the expense of southpaw Grant Dayton, one day after the team used eight pitchers in the 16-inning fiasco at St. Louis.
Since rejoining the squad, he has already made two scoreless appearances in relief, throwing five innings total, only surrendering three hits and one walk while striking out five batters. Yesterday, Stripling closed out the game with three strong shutout innings against Tampa Bay.
Having a dependable and trustworthy long man in the bullpen is a role that manager Dave Roberts says “has huge value.”
The 26-year-old righty has now pitched in 11 big league games in 2016, including eight starts, tallying a 4.09 ERA with 39 strikeouts and 19 walks over 50-2/3 innings of work. In eight innings over three relief appearances, he has yet to allow an earned run.
Many fans got to know Stripling when he earned the fifth starting spot in the Dodgers’ rotation out of spring training this year, and when took a no-hit bid into the eighth inning in his major-league debut against the Giants, having been removed and watching the bullpen blow his 2-0 lead.
After spending a month in Arizona just hanging out in the heat and randomly throwing the ball around, Stripling had a 4.61 ERA in four appearances back in Triple-A Oklahoma City, with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 13-2/3 innings of work before finally being recalled to the bigs.
The main purpose of his stay at Camelback Ranch was to conserve innings for the second half of the season. Although he was technically on the OKC disabled list due to “leg fatigue,” Stripling snickered when asked about his recovery from the injury.
“Didn’t think it would take a full month,” Stripling said. “But it did.”
Although the heat was quite brutal at times, as a consolation, he did get to spend some quality time with teammate and fellow pitching prospect Jose De Leon.
The folks here at TBPC were fortunate enough to get to know Stripling a little better after he took a few moments from his busy schedule back in March to sit down and answer a group of questions about topics ranging from food to superstitions to his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
As far as his repertoire, 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 super amount of break.
With his major league and Triple-A innings tally only at 67-1/3 frames combined, and considering the recent injuries to relievers Chris Hatcher and Casey Fien, Stripling figures to have enough gas in the tank to contribute in whatever capacity the club may need down the stretch, whether it be long relief, a spot start, or even as a setup man out of the bullpen.