“I can go both ways. I can start, relieve. I can get you one out in the eighth or I can go four innings in long relief to bridge a short start to the back end of the bullpen,” he said Sunday. “I’m totally fine with that. I like it.”
But it isn’t Stripling’s top preference either. Entering his fifth big league season, the right-hander still sees himself as a full-time starter. All he has ever wanted is a fair shot at cracking the Dodgers’ rotation.
That’s why when he was excluded from the original rotation manager Dave Roberts announced in mid-March, Stripling was disappointed. It wasn’t that he believed Julio Urias or Alex Wood, the Nos. 4 and 5 pitchers in the initial five-man group, were undeserving. But with several weeks remaining before opening day, “I felt that I didn’t really get a fair shake on trying to earn that spot,” Stripling said.
That shouldn’t be an issue anymore. In the wake of pitcher David Price’s decision to sit out this season, another starting role is up for grabs. And less than three weeks away from the season’s delayed start, Stripling’s name is right near the top of Roberts’ list of potential candidates.
“I’ve been in this position basically since I started as a Dodger,” Stripling, 30, said. “I get built up and then we see where we’re at. … I was going to stay built up and hopefully when the opportunity came, I was going to be in the mix as much as anyone for that starting spot. Now with David choosing to opt out, we’re basically getting to see that opportunity right off the bat.”
Roberts on Sunday praised Stripling’s contributions — “What Ross has done for our ballclub is certainly evident and can’t be discounted,” he said — but explained that he will take his time before naming a replacement.
“Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of guys that have kept their arms moving and continued to build up,” Roberts said Sunday. “So even with David sitting out, I think that we’re still in a good position as far as starting pitching and pitching overall.”
Stripling is the most experienced candidate for Price’s rotation spot. In 52 starts, he has gone 13-15 with a 3.71 ERA. He made the 2018 All-Star game after being bumped into the rotation early that season, which included one stretch of Stripling winning six starts in a row.
But since then, Stripling has largely been used as a reliever — he has a 3.12 ERA in 84 career relief appearances — or an “opener,” pitching no more than five innings in 12 of his 15 starts last season.
Coming into this spring, he saw the opportunity to move back into the rotation again — which made the team’s seemingly early rotation decision sting all the more.
“I was not angry at [Roberts]. I was not angry at [president of baseball operations] Andrew Friedman,” Stripling said, adding: “They both said, ‘We’re sorry that it went down the way it did. You are a starter. We see you as a starter.’ ”
Dustin May, 22, and Tony Gonsolin, 26, appear to be the other leading options.
Both right-handers split their debut major league seasons in 2019 between the rotation and bullpen, with May starting in four of his 14 appearances (he went 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA overall) and Gonsolin starting in six of his 11 (4-2, 2.93 ERA).
Without normal spring training games serving as an evaluation tool, a lot will depend on how built up each pitcher can get before the season starts. Stripling is hoping to be stretched out for as many as six innings by opening day.
“It’s pretty understandable that a lot of starters are going to go short early [in the season] across the league,” Stripling said. “You’re going to need bullpen guys that can go multiple innings. So whether I start or Dustin starts or Gonsolin starts, whoever it is, all three of us are going to be used early because we’ll all be going multiple innings.
“Obviously, you want the nod as a starter, because you kind of earn something when you get that nod. But we all need to understand that we’re all going to get used and we’re all going to be a big part of what we’re trying to do.”
- Roberts said pitcher Kenley Jansen and outfielder AJ Pollock have not yet reported to the team’s training camp but hopes to have them both at Dodger Stadium soon. Roberts didn’t disclose the reason for either absence or give a target date for either of their arrivals. “I have talked to Kenley a couple times in the last week,” Roberts said of Jansen. “I’m hopeful we’ll see him soon.”
- Roberts said the Dodgers’ schedule is set to be released Monday. The team’s opener will be July 23, reportedly to be a nationally televised home game against the San Francisco Giants.