No hits, 174 messages and the Opening Day moment for Ross Stripling

Jon SooHOO/Los Angeles Dodgers

Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

By Cary Osborne

Right in front of Ross Stripling’s locker was a bright pink suitcase.

Yes, it’s his.

It’s a bit humbling.

Dodger players were given free suitcases during the Freeway Series. Stripling was the last to grab his and it was the only color that was left.

“I can’t say it’s not easy to notice in the baggage claim,” Stripling said.

Even without the suitcase, Stripling has the humility to realize that his moment on April 8 won’t last forever. His 7 1/3 no-hit innings against the Giants in San Francisco gave him overnight fame.

And the day after, he was removed from the marquee.

“It happened fast,” he said on how long it took him to move forward. “The day after I pitched was Bumgarner-Kershaw, so I feel like I was forgotten about soon, which is good. I’d rather have it that way — get back to the grind, getting into a routine, start prepping for the D’Backs. For me it’s day three now. I’ll get into the video room, get into all that stuff, how I attack them. So that means you forget about the last one. You have to have a short memory, whether it’s good or bad.”

But this memory was so good it had some life.

When he reached his locker after the game, he had 174 text messages on his phone. Then there were messages on social media.

“Social media was insane, too,” he said. “Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, I really couldn’t keep up with it. Finally I caught up with the social media stuff yesterday.”

The fact that Stripling even got the ball on April 8 in the first place was, insane is not the word, but incredible.

Stripling missed 2014 due to Tommy John surgery and returned last June 14 to compete in a game for the first time. Things had to fall in place for Stripling, who still has yet to pitch in Triple-A, for get the start in San Francisco. He was impressive in his first three Spring Training outings, then surrendered three home runs and five earned in his only spring start on March 29. But Mike Bolsinger and Brandon Beachy got hurt. Stripling won the No. 5 spot in the rotation over Carlos Frias and Zach Lee, two pitchers with big league experience.

And to throw 7 1/3 innings of no-hit ball? No one expected that.

“I think initially, he’s just a great way about him,” said Dodger manager Dave Roberts. “There’s a confidence, just kind of the way he carries himself – his mound presence, when he was working the pens, the live BPs, his interaction with the pitching coach. And obviously, his mix – he’s got great command, he’s got repeatable mechanics. And so I think that when you’ve got those components, and you’ve got a game plan that can execute, you’ve got a good chance.

“Did I see him throwing no-hit ball for 7 1/3? Absolutely not. But I knew he was going to compete and make pitches. And so to kind of get his feet wet in that environment … it’s great for him, and great for us.”

Stripling said he feels good today. He said he was a little fatigued after the game — physically and mentally. The 100 pitches he threw on April 8 were the most since he has come back from surgery. But he was able to throw his bullpen on Sunday, as scheduled and felt strong.

Now to the next moment.

For fans, and players, one of the most electrifying parts of the pregame pomp and circumstance on Opening Day is player introductions.

It’s crossed Ross Stripling’s mind as to what the moment will be like when his name is called.

“Hopefully somewhere in the middle,” Stripling said of what he anticipates the reception to be when his name is called. “I don’t think I’ll get a Kershaw applause. Maybe something a little bit bigger than average would be nice. Whatever they give me is great. I’m just pumped to be here.”

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