(Photo Credit: mlb.com)
Each time rookie Ross Stripling has been recalled to the big league roster this season, it seems as if the 26-year-old righty has elevated his skills to an entirely new level. And while fellow rookie Grant Dayton has impressed out of the bullpen in his two trips to the bigs, it may be time the Dodgers consider the duo as permanent fixtures on the pitching staff.
Stripling was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City to start Saturday’s contest against the Red Sox, not long after Bud Norris was placed on the 15-day disabled list with back problems. Despite struggling a bit in the first frame allowing two hits and a walk, Stripling settled down to throw five quality innings. Surrendering a total of only two hits in the second through fifth innings, he spearheaded a strong pitching attack that led the Dodgers past Boston, 3-0.
Stripling struck out four batters and threw only 75 pitches, with the effort being good enough to earn him his third big league victory of the year. Saturday’s game was his first start in the majors since being credited with the loss on May 19 against the Angels. It also marked the 42nd start by a Dodgers’ rookie pitcher this year, with Kenta Maeda tallying 22 starts, Julio Urias adding nine, and Brock Stewart contributing two.
Upon relieving Stripling in the sixth frame, Dayton was nearly perfect in his two innings of work. He punched out four batters, including striking out the entire Boston side in the seventh inning, while allowing only one base runner via a walk. Saturday’s base on balls is his only blemish in two appearances for the Dodgers so far in 2016. He has thrown a total of four full innings, striking out six batters.
Dayton was recalled for his second tour of duty when Stewart was demoted on Thursday, after suffering the loss against the Rockies on Wednesday evening.
Passing Dodger legend Eric Karros in the history books, shortstop Corey Seager set the Dodgers’ rookie record with his 31st double of the season, a run-scoring rip that extended the lead to 2-0 in the fifth. A.J. Ellis started the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the second inning.
Joe Blanton worked a relatively uneventful eighth frame, and Kenley Jansen closed the game for his National League-leading 33rd save.
Considering the current state of the Dodgers’ starting rotation, Stripling may hang around a while this time through, and stay in line for a start against the Pirates next weekend. With Norris now on the shelf for a few weeks, and a new blister having formed on the finger of Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy will start the series finale on Sunday, while Urias seems to be in line for a spot start on Monday against the Phillies. Maeda will take his normal turn in the rotation on Tuesday, with Scott Kazmir lining up for Wednesday.
As far as the bullpen goes, the Dodgers hope to keep their head above water while stalwarts Adam Liberatore and Louis Coleman heal in what hopes to be a very short time frame. Coleman’s 50 relief appearances are second on the club only to Blanton, and Liberatore’s 44 games rank right in the top five of the Dodgers’ most utilized relievers.
Currently, the trio of Pedro Baez, Blanton and Jansen prove to be the team’s most talented shutdown option for the latter innings of a game, yet the club can highly ill afford to add more relievers to an already crowded disabled list due to overuse. Despite having a crew of nine members in the relief corps, the remaining group of Josh Fields, J.P. Howell, Luis Avilan and Jesse Chavez does not instill much confidence down the stretch for a club with playoff aspirations. It’s also worth noting that Chavez does not have any option years remaining on his contract.
Regardless, the Dodgers hope to win the series by closing out in strong fashion against the Red Sox on Sunday. In a rare 4:10 p.m. local time start, McCarthy will square off against Boston lefty David Price.