After registering a scoreless eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Cubs on Sunday, Ross Stripling did not stay in the dugout or duck into the clubhouse to watch the rest of the game. He went to the bullpen. His day wasn’t over.
On top of the 17 pitches he threw in the game, Stripling tossed another 20 to 25 as if it were a spring training day. The Dodgers asked him to complete the session to keep his stamina built up to offset the lack of work he’s accumulated since rejoining the Dodgers’ bullpen. The team is preparing for an upcoming game in which he and Julio Urias will pitch the bulk of the innings to give the team’s five starters an additional day of rest amid a stretch of 18 straight days with games. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the team has not decided when that will be.
Stripling began the season in the Dodgers’ starting rotation until Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill returned from injury and pushed him back to the relief corps. It’s not the first time the 29-year-old Stripling has worked as a reliever; he also spent time in the bullpen each of the last three seasons. But this stint has been unique because of the starters’ staggering ability to pitch deep into games consistently.
Since April 25, the day after Stripling made his last start, Dodgers starters lead the majors in innings pitched per game (6.36) entering Monday. Their 2.23 earned-run average is nearly a run better than the second-ranked Tampa Bay Rays’ 3.03.
Because Stripling is primarily a long reliever, the starters’ success has left him fewer opportunities. Last month, the right-hander went 11 days without pitching — from May 6 to May 16 — which required throwing an extra bullpen session to stay sharp. Other times, Stripling will throw a bullpen session during a game once he is sure he won’t enter the game.
“I might throw a ninth-inning bullpen instead of throwing one at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and then maybe pitch at nine because I’ve never done that,” Stripling said. “So I’ve been playing it by ear.”
He hasn’t thrown more than 34 pitches in 13 relief appearances and has pitched more than one inning just twice. Since giving up three runs in one-third of an inning in his first relief outing, he’s been charged with four runs in 13 1/3 innings across six weeks.
“The workload hasn’t really changed as far as the mental side of preparing,” Stripling said. “It’s just trying to get enough work in to stay sharp when you get in there.”
Pollock taking next step
A.J. Pollock was scheduled to take swings at flips in the batting cage either Monday or Tuesday, Roberts said. Pollock is working his way back from an infected elbow that put him on the injured list in late April, a process that was delayed until he had a peripherally inserted central catheter removed in his bicep last week.
The outfielder recently began throwing and had been limited to dry swings. Roberts said he envisions Pollock logging 40 to 50 at-bats in rehab games before being reinstated.