LOS ANGELES – It was a mystery more enduring than who was the second gunman on the grassy knoll, but finally it's solved, rookie Ross Stripling will start the season as the Los Angeles Dodgers fifth starter.
For weeks, speculation has ran rampant over who would be the pitcher to complete the Dodgers starting rotation. Ten days ago it was sophomore Mike Bolsinger, but an oblique injury quickly left LA scrambling for a replacement. The usual suspects all lined up: Carlos Frias, Brandon Beachy, Zach Lee, but in the end, it was dark horse Ross Stripling.
"Ross Stripling will open the season as our fifth starter," Dodgers manager Dave "Doc" Roberts said before the game at Chavez Ravine against the Angels on Friday night. "For us, seeing his four-pitch mix in spring, we feel he can execute a game plan and give us the best chance to win."
Stripling wasn't even considered a candidate to be the Dodgers fifth starter a few weeks ago, but he distanced himself from his competitors following a strong spring training where he allowed five runs in 11 innings with 11 strikeouts.
"I didn't honestly think I had much of a chance," Stripling told the media on Friday. "My goal was just to prove I could pitch."
The 26-year-old rookie hasn't had much opportunity to pitch over the past two years, and has never pitched above the double-A level in his career. Stripling underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, and returned to make just 14 starts in Great Lakes and Tulsa last season.
Stripling was in Glendale, Arizona Friday morning when he received a call from Dodgers Director of Player Development, Gabe Kapler, who told the young right-hander they need him on a plane to Los Angeles.
"To be here is pretty incredible, almost unimaginable," he said. "I was late to stretch because I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have a hat. I didn't know if we were wearing pants or shorts. It's every bit exciting as I could have dreamed it would be and this is just the first hour."
Stripling is slated to make his first Major League start on April 8th at AT&T Park in San Francisco against the rival Giants.
"First outing in San Francisco, talk about getting thrown into the fire," Stripling said smiling. "I've never pitched there, but I know it's one of the biggest rivalries in baseball and it should be a lot of fun."
Stripling throws four pitches with accuracy and has a tremendous ability to command his fastball. He throws a 12-6 curveball, something his manager said separates him from the rest of his competition.
"Major League Baseball has the lowest batting average against a real true curveball," Doc said. "Russ has a true curveball. He is thrilled and I think he can be as good as he wants to be."