Ross Smiling: Stripling describes his big-league arrival
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?”
“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.