The Dodgers have had an elite bullpen for the past few seasons. But, one of the mainstay and often overlooked pitchers is righty, Ross Stripling. This season, he has found form making him untouchable. This is his story.
Ross Stripling grew up in Southlake Texas, a small city roughly 30 minutes outside of downtown Dallas. His passion for athletics was evident as he played a trio of high school sports being baseball, basketball, and football. But, for the young athlete, the sport at the nucleus of his passion was basketball.
Stripling played all four years and even gave up football in his senior year to narrow his focus and hone his skills on the hardwood. He was good at basketball but his future after high school was unclear and his ability to play baseball was still there so he participated in baseball season in that same school year.
But, for the first time, Ross was faced with a challenge. His leg broke. The broken leg would prevent him from playing in the field and his ability to run was obviously taken away with his injured leg. But, this injury was no match for Stripling’s drive to succeed so he found a solution: pitching.
With a cast on one leg and a mind determined to move forward, Stripling took to the mound. He threw hard for a high schooler and this moment would serve as a stepping stone for his career in baseball.
Ross was a Texas native and that would not change when he went to college. He decided to go to Texas A&M University where he would study finance. The young basketball player turned baseball player wanted to continue what he had started with his bum leg so he joined the Aggie baseball team as a walk-on. Things would take off from there.
Stripling was excelling as a college pitcher. He played three solid years of baseball and after his junior year at A&M, Stripling was drafted by the Colorado Rockies. But, the levelheaded 21-year old would decline this opportunity as he wanted to earn a degree in college. The following season, Stripling was unbeatable, he was among college baseball’s best in terms of wins, ERA, and strikeouts. And, on the day of his graduation, Stripling threw a no-hitter against San Diego State. The Dodgers took notice.
Scouts saw him as pure, raw, talent as he was new to pitching but already so good. The selected Ross in the fifth round of the 2012 draft and, from the kid with the broken leg to college superstar, Stripling was a professional ballplayer.
After two very nice minor league seasons, Stripling was invited to major league spring training and it was here that he would be faced with the greatest challenge of his career. Early in the spring, the young righty began to experience soreness in his right arm. Nobody thought much of it but the team wanted it checked so they could protect a player who was a budding star. The news was bad. It was a torn UCL, an injury that would result in Tommy John Surgery and it was at that moment the battle began.
The recovery was grueling. Stripling worked from the moment he got the green light to get back on the field. The surgery took place in February of 2014 and by the middle of the 2015 baseball season, just 14 months later, Stripling got himself back on the field. He worked hard yet again and the next season he would get the call every player dreams of. Ross was a major league pitcher.
He spent his first season in the rotation. Making one of the most memorable debuts in MLB history, Ross no-hit the San Francisco Giants in enemy territory over 7.1 innings before being removed from the game. The rest of the year went well but that offseason that team decided they would move him from the rotation to the bullpen. This spot was where Ross would learn to thrive.
The 2017 season was sharp but according to Ross, “It was still a learning experience on how to pitch from the bullpen.”
Learn he did. 2018 has been a tale of a new pitcher. Stripling has transitioned to a new form. His pitches are untouchable and his ability to get outs when needed rivals that of some of the best relievers in baseball. In his first six appearances of the year, Ross is yet to give up a run and has
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struck out 10 batters in just 9.1 innings. The pitcher who has faced a broken leg, walking onto a college baseball team, Tommy John Surgery, and more, has hit a spot in his career that could catapult him to the top of an already elite bullpen.
Stripling’s fastball velocity has ticked up from 90 miles per hour to 93. His ERA+ over the past three seasons has been well above average sitting at 112 last year and 109 in his first year. His control has become am attribute to marvel at as he has walked just 20 batters against his last 81 strikeouts.
Orel Hershiser, Joe Davis, and other media member have said time and time again that Stripling is a reliever you can rely on. But, it is not just a ridiculous knuckle-curveball that garners him this reputation. It is his attitude. One bad outing is a thing of the past when it happens. Stripling knows that he can pitch well when he moves on and it is this mentality that has and will continue to make Ross successful.
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The talent on the field is one thing. Talent off the field is another and Ross Stripling, he has both. Stripling is a character his teammates want to be around and a player his manager wants on the field. This seasons, he appears to have found his stride and through trial and tribulation, Ross Stripling is climbing the ladder towards elite.