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Sad when the Dodgers traded him, Ross Stripling roots for his former teammates

Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ross Stripling delivers against the Boston Red Sox during the first inning.
Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ross Stripling delivers against the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 4 at Fenway Park.
(Winslow Townson / Associated Press)

Ross Stripling’s heart sunk when he saw the name flash on his phone.

Andrew Friedman was calling. On the day of the trade deadline. Oh, no.

Stripling recalled Friedman, the Dodgers’ president of baseball operations, saying all the right things on that Aug. 31 call. It was a difficult decision. There aren’t enough starter’s innings for you. We think it’s only fair for you to have a legitimate starting opportunity. So, we traded you to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Just shocked, man,” Stripling said in a telephone interview Wednesday morning. “Stunned. Didn’t see that one coming.”

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The next 24 hours were a whirlwind. He and his wife, Shelby, who was 10 weeks pregnant, furiously packed. She went home to Houston in the middle of the pandemic. The next day he left to meet his new team in Miami, play his home games in Buffalo, and wear Toronto across his chest.

“I went out to Dodger Stadium to pack my bag,” Stripling said, “and came out and I got tears in my eyes walking out of Dodger Stadium, driving away.”

Stripling’s Blue Jays reached the postseason and were swept by the Tampa Bay Rays in the wild card series. Now he’s another anxious Dodgers fan rooting for the National League’s top seed to finally win that elusive World Series.

The Dodgers trail the Braves 2-0 in the NLCS but have an advantage in coming pitching matchups and possible momentum after late-inning rally in Game 2.

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“It’s the first time I maybe understand how my parents feel watching a game.” Stripling, 30, said. “I want them to succeed so much and I want them to do well and I watch them and ride the wave when they struggle and then when they do well.”

Stripling tweeted about Walker Buehler’s tight pants while watching Game 1. On Tuesday, he left his grandmother’s house in time to catch the last two innings of the Dodgers’ comeback that fell one run short in an 8-7 loss to the Atlanta Braves. He planned on watching Game 3 at home. But probably not the whole thing.

“I haven’t really just watched all nine innings,” Stripling said. “It’s almost too hard. And just enjoying being home, it’s so weird to watch. I definitely was going to sit and watch [Clayton] Kershaw pitch [Tuesday] and that didn’t happen. So that’s a very odd feeling. Something that I haven’t had to feel before.”

He stays in regular contact with Kershaw, Corey Seager and Alex Wood, and sends congratulatory texts to former teammates when they homer or pitch well. He said he’s not a huge videogame fan but he’ll occasionally log on to play with former teammates.

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“They’re just sitting in the bubble,” Stripling said. “We play Call of Duty. Seager’s the only Fortnite guy left.”

Ross Stripling throws for the Dodgers during a game against the Colorado Rockies on Aug. 23.
(Alex Gallardo / Associated Press)

The Dodgers drafted Stripling in 2012. He spent his first four full major league seasons with the club. He was around for four consecutive World Series pursuits — and pitched in the playoffs in three of them. His fifth playoff experience came across the country in Tampa. The right-hander allowed one run and three hits in 1 1/3 innings out of the bullpen in the Blue Jays’ season-ending Game 2 loss.

After the trade, Friedman said he believed the club had enough pitching depth to discard Stripling, a well-liked teammate and unassuming personality who regularly bounced between the rotation and bullpen at the club’s discretion.

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But that depth is being pushed. Walker Buehler’s inability to pitch deep into games and Kershaw’s back spasms have placed more pressure on the club’s young, talented arms — Julio Urías, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May — to absorb more important innings.

The Dodgers could’ve kept Stripling to provide a safety net. But Stripling said he isn’t bitter. He wasn’t angry when Friedman told him the news. He was sad. Getting another chance to chase a ring, he said, would’ve been great. The Dodgers have some of his best friends. He even had to bail on the Dodgers’ fantasy football league and Kershaw, his co-team owner. He ended up joining the Blue Jays’ league.

The Atlanta Braves were on the brink of a collapse after the bullpen allowed the Dodgers to rally five runs down in the bottom on the ninth in Game 2 of the NLCS.

But Stripling views the situation as “a win-win.” He’s going to enjoy a few more weeks of an offseason. He’s spending more time with his wife. He got to attend their unborn son’s 20-week checkup. And, if the Dodgers pull it out, if they’re finally the last team standing, he’ll a get ring.

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“It is strange,” he said. “Bittersweet is a good word for it.”


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