Stripling thoroughly comfortable in his role and Blue Jays benefit because of it

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ross Stripling has a very big fan in Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo.

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It’s not a surprise.

Stripling is the kind of player that makes teams and, by association, managers better.

Just like every successful team needs all-stars and grinders, a successful team needs players willing to sacrifice a little of themselves to be part of something special.

Stripling has been with two organizations his entire career – the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Toronto Blue Jays.

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He admits that coming up in the Dodgers organization he accepted and thrived in the role of swing man moving from the bullpen into emergency or replacement starter status when needed and then back again in order to stay in the Majors.

But that role became something much more for the now 32-year-old pitcher the longer he considered it.

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“When I was young and first in the league, I did it to survive,” Stripling said after giving Montoyo and the Jays five one-hit innings as he moved back into the rotation for the injured Hyun Jin Ryu in an eventual 8-0 win. “I knew that was how I was going to stay in the big leagues so I accepted the role that way. Now older I think I view it as such a valuable asset to a team – a guy who can start or bridge a short start into the back end of the bullpen or save innings for the pen I just think is really valuable.”

Whether it’s the changing times in baseball where starters are protected and bullpens used extensively as opposed to even five years ago or just a case of guys not willing to play the role, the swingman in today’s game is a dying breed.

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Stripling was asked what makes him so comfortable in that kind of role.

“I have had a lot of experience is the one thing I lean on the most,” he said. “Really, I think you have to buy into it and be OK with it and kind of leave your ego at the door a little bit. I think that’s a big part of it.”

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Stripling’s career is like few others in baseball. He’s pitched in 186 games, started 86 and has 30 wins over those seven seasons and four saves including one a couple of weeks ago in Anaheim.

The upside for Stripling is being able to carve out a niche on teams focused on winning.

“I have been able to do it on two really good teams which I think helps,” he said. “I show up to the field and help a team win that wants to win 100 games and has World Series aspirations and know that is my role and there’s a lot of value in that. Once you accept that and understand there is value there, you show up to the field with a smile on your face ready to do whatever which is basically what I have done my whole career.”

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In his seventh season, had he chosen to remain in a starting role, something he has been quite good at, it’s almost a given that he would be making more money, but would he have been able to do it while being around winners as much as he has?

“There is probably a world where I have made starts for the past six years for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs every year but I have only missed the playoffs once (in his career) and it was by one game last year so I’ll take my career thus far for sure.”

As for the money, well, he may have left some on the table, but Stripling is not about to lose sleep over it.

“Financially, yeah, possibly (he could have cost himself) but that’s not my priority.”

Stripling isn’t the only player on Montoya’s roster that evokes the kind of gratitude every time he is spoken about. Cavan Biggio, a guy with a skill set which allows him to move around the diamond defensively depending on what Montoyo’s needs are that day is talked about in similar tones by the Jays’ manager.

Montoyo has been around the game a long time and he knows players of this ilk don’t come around as often as a manager might like.

“You have to be a team guy to do what he does,” Montoyo said talking about Stripling post-game Monday night. “He’s pitching good and then all of a sudden (an injured starter returns) and he goes back to the bullpen and he doesn’t complain. That’s who he is and it’s one of the reasons he does so well in his job.”

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