Stellar swingman Ross Stripling emerging as a savior for Blue Jays rotation

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DETROIT — As Mr. Versatility of the Blue Jays pitching staff, Ross Stripling pretty much called his shot on Sunday.

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Sure, it was just his seventh start of the season — although his 15th appearance — but the veteran right-hander had a feel for where his arm is right now and said as much.

“I’ve been pitching with efficiency and, if that keeps up, I should be able to go six (innings),” Stripling said the day prior to the Jays cruising 6-0 over the Tigers to take two of three in the weekend series.

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Six splendid innings it was for a guy who may go from spot starter to a key arm in the Jays’ wobbling rotation over the next couple of months. Matching his longest outing in more than a year, Stripling allowed just one hit while striking out four.

And how about this for the pitching star of the six-game road trip? With winning starts in Kansas City and Detroit, Stripling allowed just two hits and no runs over 11 innings.

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Those were exactly the type of efforts manager Charlie Montoyo needed from a rotation that Hyun-Jin Ryu has seen chased to the injury list and Yusei Kikuchi often searching for the strike zone.

Enter Stripling, who threw all five of his pitches on Sunday, most prominently mixing his change-up with his slider and his four-seam fastball.

It was a work of art at times, testament to Stripling’s focus on getting more efficient in his work. And furthermore to what he believes is an evolution in his own game.

“As Greg Maddux says, a pitcher is never a finished product,” Stripling said. “I’m not a flame-thrower, so I’ve got to keep guys on their toes. My arsenal is a little different. When I was younger, I was picking at the strike zone more and chasing strikes.

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“Now I know what I want to do when I scout a hitter and go out and attack him. I’m going to pitch to that scouting report and try to get guys out as quickly as possible.”

Stripling, who improved to 3-1, admits he’s pitching with some confidence right now, but isn’t about to let that mindset run wild. But with Ryu weeks — and perhaps months — away from returning, the well-earned rotation spot is his.

“I like to think you’re never too high or too low,” he said. “When things are going well, you come to the field and try to have a week like you just had. But I’m not all of a sudden thinking I’m in the hunt for the Cy Young. Just try to stay even-keeled which is a strength of mine I’ve been able to maintain over my career.”


The big blow on offense for the Jays was a two-run homer from Vlad Guerrero Jr. in the fourth, his team-leading 14th of the season.

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Guerrero’s previous homer came in Kansas City this past Monday in the Jays’ 3-0 win over the Royals — coincidentally in Stripling’s previous start.

“It gives us a lot of confidence, especially when Vlad is hitting,” said infielder Santiago Espinal. “It’s been good watching Vlad get hot and get in his groove.”


The Jays’ offensive outbursts of late have been a welcome tonic for the one-run game specialists, but perhaps no more so than for the pitchers.

The Jays now have blowout wins (five-plus runs in five of their past eight games.

“It’s nice to be able to pitch with a cushion every once in a while,” Jays pitching coach Pete Walker said. “Our defense is capable of that. It’s great that some of these (pitchers) will get a bit of a breather and we’ll bounce back and get everybody rolling. We’ve had a lot of high-leverage situations. It wears on guys… it can’t be easy.”

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The Jays end their six-game road trip with a 4-2 record and now return home for seven, including their first four meetings of the season against the Baltimore Orioles beginning on Monday at the Rogers Center … Alek Manoah takes his 7-1 record and 1.81 ERA into the opener … As you might expect, the Jays are whopping minus-300 favorites in the overnight line at as the Orioles counter with Kyle Bradish, he of the 6.45 ERA .. In improving to 35-24, the Jays have now gone 17 games without losing two in a row … For the second consecutive day, third baseman Matt Chapman was kept out of the lineup as he nurses what the team figures is just a minor wrist injury. Chapman says he hopes to return to action over the next couple of days. “We’ll see how he feels tomorrow,” Montoyo said… What we’ve learned in the two games the veteran sat, however, is that Espinal is just as strong at the hot corner as he is at second. “It’s a lot of fun. I like playing anywhere out there,” Espinal said … No hits for rookie catcher Gabby Moreno in his second game, but he did earn his first walk — and first shutout win — which earned him a celebratory shower post-game … Montoyo on Stripling’s spot in the rotation: “He’s been key. He’s been great. Ryu is a ways away. I’m not even thinking about that right now.”

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