Stripling finding footing in Dodgers' bullpen

May 13th, 2017

DENVER -- made a good enough impression on the Dodgers in his 2016 rookie season that they've penciled him into their long-term plans as a member of their starting rotation.

He made 14 starts last year, but he also made eight appearances in the bullpen, including his last four appearances in September, when he averaged over three innings per relief outing as well as five postseason appearances.

Stripling made his second consecutive Opening Day roster this season, but he's been used exclusively out of the bullpen, where he's averaged nearly two innings per appearance while establishing a 3.79 ERA over 11 games.

"Ross, last year, was very valuable for us in the different roles that we put him in," manager Dave Roberts said before Saturday's game against the Rockies at Coors Field. "His openness to adjust to be a starter or pitch in a one-inning or a two-inning or a three-inning stint -- that gives us so much value."

Stripling was 3-6 with a 4.52 ERA as a starter last year and 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA in relief. His overall numbers are improved over his solid rookie campaign, and he seems to be thriving in the bullpen.

"If anything, it's just a comfort level versus last year," Stripling said. "I know it's a new role, but your rookie year you're just still trying to decide if you belong and if you can get guys out at this level. I got 100 innings under my belt last year, so I'm a little more comfortable, a little more confident, and that's helped.

"My stuff feels good this year. It feels like I've been able to throw everything for a strike in any count, and that helps when I'm trying to keep them off balance."

Stripling has struck out 24 in 19 innings, while walking only four, making the most of his effective curve and slider.

"We see him as a starter going forward, but right now, to best fit our roster, [he's filling] this kind of niche for the longer reliever," Roberts said of Stripling. "I've been putting him in high leverage situations, too, so it's not the traditional lopsided game either way. I trust him when he's out there."

Worth noting

Second baseman ran the bases Saturday and is nearing a rehab assignment as he recovers from a right big toe fracture and an April 19 trip to the disabled list.

"We expect him to play in a Minor League rehab game on Tuesday, probably in a DH capacity," Roberts said. "I expect him to be active at some point on the homestand."