Ross Smiling: Stripling describes his big-league arrival

Stripling dasdad

By Jon Weisman

In his own words, here’s Ross Stripling on being named the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter:

So I woke up this morning with a text and a call from Gabe Kapler. He was like, “How’s it going?”

Dave Roberts on the decision to use Ross Stripling in the starting 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.

All three guys 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.

I think that the Major League Baseball average against the curveball, a real true curveball, is the lowest batting average against, and he’s got a real true curveball. And so (with) the plane of his fastball, his fastball command, at 26 years old, he’s right where he’s supposed to be. I know he’s thrilled, and I think he can be as good as he wants to be.

We just felt we could option him (midway through Spring Training) and get him consistent work and get him innings. We were stretching guys out at that point in time, with the thought that if something happened, we could always bring him back.

If you looked at when we started camp, he was a guy we probably projected for next year, to be quite honest, and maybe if anything just to kind of get him a look in September.

For us, our only message was obviously congratulations, but you earned the right to be here, (so) go out and execute pitches. It’s hostile (in San Francisco), but it’s also an exciting place to pitch. That’s something that weighed in our thoughts. … Carlos has done it, Zach has made one career start, but I think for us, Ross has got a good head on his shoulders, and I believe that gives us the best chance to win.

I think that with any player that get sent out, there’s disappointment, and Carlos gives us a lot of flexbility. He’s gonna go down to Oklahoma City, and he’s gonna start. I think we went through 16 different starters last year, and we expect him to be back at some point this year. He’s disappointed, but we expect him to go down there and get guys out and be ready when called upon.

I’m happy, and I think that it’s good for Ross to kind of have it settle in a little bit. There’s going to be a lot of media, there’s phone calls to his family and his fiancee. It’s a whirlwhind for anyone who makes his first Opening Day. So the sooner that we can tell him, which was today, I think that we all feel better.

“It’s going good — what’s up?”

He was like, “We need you on a flight to L.A.”

“All right — awesome.”

He’s like, “But we don’t know yet who the fifth starter is, but we need you in L.A., just in case.”

“OK.” It’s good news, obviously.

So I fly out here and I get here, and the first person I see is Doc (Dave Roberts). And he goes, “Strip, let’s go in my office.”

And I was trying to get a read on kind of his body language, and I couldn’t, and I was like, “Oh man.”

And Farhan (Zaidi) comes in, and (Rick) Honeycutt, and I was like, “All right, they’re obviously going to tell me something.”

And (Roberts) said, “I just want to tell you, you’re going to be the fifth starter.” And he’s like, “This is my first time having a meeting like this as a Dodger manager.”

And I was like, “This is obviously my first time too.”

And I probably can’t even hardly remember what he told me. Just, “You’re starting the 8th in San Francisco — congratulations.” Honeycutt said the same, Farhan said the same. And I was like, “All right — you know that’s awesome. Thank you very much.”

Shook hands. It was fast. And they were like, “Go call your fiancee and your family,” and I was like, “All right.” And that was that.

Everybody always says it goes by so fast, and it really does. It’s already gone by incredibly fast.

Stripling injured himself in February 2014 and had Tommy John surgery the following week. He spoke to Dodger Insider in January 2015 about his road to recovery, and pitched in his first official minor-league game in June. He got 71 1/3 innings under his belt before the season ended. 

I think my goal coming into the spring was just to prove to these guys that I can pitch. I think a lot of them had never even seen me throw — obviously Doc had never seen me throw. Honeycutt got a brief glimpse in ’14 before I got hurt, so to me it was like, “Come in and show these guys I can pitch, that I’m healthy and my arm’s ready to go.”

And I got optioned down, (but) they were like, “You know, you did a good job this spring. You showed that you can pitch, we’re excited about you.” I felt really good, and it kind of snowballed from there.

Soon after, Stripling heard whispers that he was in the conversation for the No. 5 spot. 

Everyone kept saying, “You kind of have a shot, you kind of have a shot,” and I was like, “Well, you know what, I’m going to do everything I can to get it, if it’s in my grasp.” It’s not like you’re ever going out there not pitching with your heart, but I was out there giving everything I have and trying to prove to everyone that I’m ready to rock, and it just kind of kept going.”

Stripling will make his MLB debut at the toughest place for a Dodger to play, San Francisco’s AT&T Park. 

Yeah, throw you right in the fire. That’ll be fun. I’ve been to that stadium twice — I’ve never pitched in it obviously — but I’ve been there, got a feel for what it’s about. It’s one of the biggest rivalries in baseball, so it’ll be fun.

Stripling has a theory about how he’s been able to emerge as the unlikely one to start the season with the team. 

We’re all good pitchers. I think it was, maybe just I’m kind of unique. I think I throw from a funny arm angle, and I think it’s something you don’t see every day, and that would be kind of what I imagine it has to do with. I’m just kind of a competitor, I’m gonna throw strikes, and if you hit it, so be it, but I’m just gonna keep coming at you. I’m gonna mix it, and I’m never gonna give up. That’s kind of my mentality, and I think they kind of like it.

Dave Roberts spoke in particular about Stripling’s curveball. 

That’s a long story. I didn’t play baseball really much, didn’t pitch until I was 18, and someone was like, “You should throw a spike curveball.” And I was like, “I have no idea what that is,” and I still throw it strange. I can’t do it (here) because it’s actually making the middle finger, but I do this with my knuckle and I put it on the ball, and obviously this finger’s up, and I throw it like a football. … And I throw it from such a high arm angle, it’s gonna be a 12-6 just naturally.

1 Comment

Congrats to Stripling even though somebody has to be the 5th starter.

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