Ross Stripling started his major league career off with a bang when he threw 7.1 no-hit innings against the Giants in his Dodgers debut. It was certainly unexpected for a pitcher who had never played above Double-A, never made a top-100 prospect list and only joined the Opening Day rotation due to injuries to other pitchers. After his memorable debut, Stripling bounced between the rotation and bullpen and was occasionally benched due to an innings limit stemming from 2014 Tommy John surgery. The most notable weapon in his arsenal is an above-average curveball that backs up his low-90s heat, a combination that didn't generate many strikeouts (6.7 K/9) but did add up to a roughly league-average ERA of 3.96. He eventually settled in as the Dodgers' long man in the bullpen and occupied that role in the playoffs. That will likely be his planned role again in 2017, though he will also provide starting depth for a team that has desperately needed it the last couple of years.
Stripling was perfect through 1.2 innings Wednesday, striking out four in a win over the Cubs. With the Dodgers having a plethora of veteran rotation candidates, the 27-year-old was pushed into a relief role this spring. He has excelled as a reliever, posting a 1.42 ERA with 10 strikeouts and no walks in 6.1 innings. Stripling had moderate success as a swingman last season (3.96 ERA and 1.26 WHIP), but early results point to an improvement this year. If an injury-prone Dodgers rotation opens up a spot for the young righty, he would garner immediate deep-league value.
Stripling could land a spot start Monday with Rich Hill (finger) being placed on the disabled list, Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reports. Alex Wood seems like the leading candidate for Monday's bout with the Cubs, but manager Dave Roberts did identify Stripling as an option as well. The right-hander gave up a run and struck out three in his first appearance of the season Monday, so he would likely be well-rested for a start next week. Things should become clearer on this front as Monday's contest nears.
Stripling has been named one of the Dodgers' relievers to begin the season, Bill Plunkett of The Orange County Register reports. The Dodgers already announced that Stripling was no longer an option for the rotation, but the team decided to keep him on the team as a right-handed long relief option. The 27-year-old won't have fantasy value in that role, but he could potentially join the rotation at some point during the season, considering the injury history of Rich Hill, Brandon McCarthy and Hyun-Jin Ryu. If Stripling were to enter the rotation at any point this year, he would gain deep-league value after posting a 3.96 ERA over 100 innings in 2016.
If Stripling doesn't win the Dodgers' fifth starter job this spring, he could stick on the 25-man roster as a reliever, the LA Times reports. This move would make sense considering the Dodgers' lack of bullpen depth behind the recently re-signed Kenley Jansen. Stripling posted a 3.96 ERA in 22 appearances (14 starts) in his rookie season last year, showing that he can pitch in the majors as a swingman.
Stripling (4-6) gave up two runs on three hits and struck out five over five innings in a win Tuesday over Arizona. Stripling is approaching an innings limit and wasn't showing his normal velocity, so he was removed after just 66 pitches despite what looks on paper like a solid five frames. Considering the Dodgers have an expanded roster bullpen to play with, it probably isn't worth expecting Stripling to go deep in whatever games he appears in down the stretch. The rookie has done a fine job filling into the Dodgers rotation, posting a 4.12 ERA and a 62:25 K:BB in 87.1 innings, but the Dodgers would probably rather take their chances with a reliever than let Stripling face a lineup for the third time around.
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