PHOENIX — Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling allowed a run in one inning, striking out two against the Brewers on Wednesday afternoon in Maryvale, continuing to get ready for the regular season.
Stripling, like two handfuls of Dodgers pitchers on the 40-man roster, have been building up a starter’s workload this spring, though there are only five major league rotation slots to fill. Even if it is in a relief role, the right-hander would understandably prefer to remain in the majors.
"We haven't talked specific roles, but I'd be up for anything. I did it last year and I enjoyed it,” Stripling said. “Anything works for me, whether it's a long man, just a one-inning guy, or whatever. I'll just come in and throw curveballs to righties.”
Stripling threw that curve 22% of the time to both right-handed and left-handed batters in 2016, per Brooks Baseball, and the pitch proved effective. Opponents hit just .200 with a .311 slugging percentage against his curveball, with 25 strikeouts and just two walks in 92 plate appearances to go with a 63% ground ball rate.
He filled a variety of roles for the Dodgers last year. Stripling made the opening day roster as the fifth starter and made 14 starts during the season. He also pitched eight times in relief, then made the club’s postseason roster as the long man in the bullpen, pitching five games combined in the NLDS and NLCS.
Stripling has embraced the versatility.
"They trusted me to go out there to get three outs in the playoffs, or relieve Bud Norris when he got hurt against the second hitter, and also make some starts too,” Stripling said. “That's kind of where my value is, and obviously something they like about me, so it gives me confidence.”
Even with the various roles, Stripling tallied 100 major league innings in 2016, good for fourth on the Dodgers. Not bad for someone who started camp last season somewhere around eighth on the starting pitcher depth chart.
That he finished fourth on the club in innings is even more remarkable considering he was shut down for four weeks in May and June. After recovering from 2014 Tommy John surgery, Stripling pitched 71 innings in 2015, limiting how much the Dodgers could use him last year.
Stripling spent a month at the Dodgers facility in Camelback Ranch conditioning. He joked that it was basically 116 degrees every single day, though he managed to stay sane while not pitching.
"It was a pretty big shot in the stomach, but the communication was there. They had a plan, and they told me. It wasn't like they didn't talk to me for a month,” Stripling recalled. “[President of baseball operations Andrew] Friedman was giving me calls. [Director of player development Gabe] Kapler was down here working with me. [Pitching coach Rick] Honeycutt was working with me, watching videos. It didn't make me feel forgotten, which helped a lot.
“It's what allowed me to pitch later in the season, and make the playoff roster. It kind of ended up being a blessing, really.”
The Dodgers have their first of two full off days in camp on Thursday. The club doesn’t play again until Friday night against the Rangers at Camelback Ranch, a game televised by SportsNet LA.
Brandon McCarthy will start for the Dodgers, and Julio Urias will pitch in relief.