Ross Stripling believes Giants fit is ‘perfect;’ said he will be the starter

Stripling explains why the Giants are a ‘perfect’ fit for him originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

Ross Stripling was born in Pennsylvania, went to high school and college in Texas, and has spent his entire MLB career in Los Angeles and Toronto. Unlike many of the Giants’ targets this offseason, Stripling was not signing up to come home when he agreed to a two-year contract Tuesday, but he might fit in with the clubhouse better than anyone who was available.

Stripling was Double-A roommates with Joc Pederson, and Alex Wood was in his wedding five years ago. The right-hander came up with the Dodgers when Farhan Zaidi was the general manager and Gabe Kapler was the farm director, and when Stripling hit free agency last month, Zaidi was one of the first to call.

The two kept in touch, which impressed Stripling, who knew Zaidi was spending most of his time trying to lure Aaron Judge. This week, they finally agreed to a deal. Stripling signed for two years and $25 million with an opt-out after the upcoming 2023 MLB season.

Stripling, 33, said free agency was fun but also stressful, particularly because he and his wife, Shelby, have a second child on the way.

“I enjoyed it but I’m also glad it’s over,” Stripling said on a Zoom call, smiling. “I’m glad that we landed in a spot that I love, my wife loves, and we’re obviously really excited to get to San Francisco and get this thing going.”

Stripling’s addition was the second to the rotation in three days. The Giants have not announced the Sean Manaea deal yet, but he agreed to the same terms as Stripling. At the moment the Giants have six starters, and while Stripling has extensive experience as a big league reliever, he said he has been told he will start and wants to start.

“I feel like the couple of times I’ve gotten a runway as a starter in the big leagues where I knew my position was safe is where I’ve done the best,” Stripling said. “I made an All-Star Game in 2018 with the Dodgers and then this year with Toronto, I knew they basically didn’t have anyone and they gave me some runway and I was able to do well. I think Farhan saw that.

“Yeah, we have six guys and six very capable starters in the big leagues. We’ll see how it shakes out, but there’s always innings, man. If you pitch well they’re going to give you the ball. That’s kind of been the story of my career. I’m not going to go in saying ‘I’m the No. 2 starter, pitch me second’ or anything. That’s never been me. I’ll go in built-up and ready to go and expect the ball every fifth day if things are going well. That’s kind of been how I’ve attacked my whole career thus far.”

That career has had plenty of ups and downs. Stripling broke in with the Dodgers in 2016 and pitched well, only to spend nearly all of 2017 in the bullpen. He returned to the rotation the following year and made the All-Star team, but during the shortened 2020 season, Stripling was traded to the Blue Jays.

The first two seasons in Toronto included some poor results, but last season, Stripling posted a 3.01 ERA and 3.11 FIP. He was in the 98th percentile among big league pitchers in walk rate, the 93rd percentile in chase rate and allowed just 12 homers.

Stripling’s stuff doesn’t jump off the page and he described his approach as “kitchen sink from pitch one.” But it mostly has been effective in the big leagues.

“I keep hitters off balance by throwing anything in any count,” he said. “My changeup took a really good step forward this past season. It got a lot better in (2021) and then in the offseason in ’21 going into ’22, I made it a huge priority to increase the usage to righties.

“I’ve always had reverse-splits and needed something that I could get right-handed hitters out (with), specifically on the inside part of the plate. You could see (hitters) were always leaning out over and just didn’t respect the inside part of the plate, so the changeup-sinker combo was big against them this year. I’m just constantly evolving.”

Stripling said one of his strengths is never being a finished product, and that’ll be music to the ears of Giants pitching coaches who have a strong track record of getting the most out of veteran starters. Kevin Gausman, a past reclamation project before he became a Blue Jay, had plenty of good things to say to Stripling about the Giants and their approach.

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The Giants didn’t face Stripling last year but they have seen him at his best. He threw 7 1/3 hitless innings at Oracle Park in his big league debut before Dave Roberts pulled him because of his pitch count (for the record, he doesn’t hold a grudge) and said he always has positive memories when he walks into Oracle Park. The next time he sees Roberts and the Dodgers, it’ll be with the rival.

“It felt right and it felt like a fit,” he said of the Giants. “And then you add in that some of my favorite games that I’ve ever pitched are in that stadium, it just feels perfect.”

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