A.J. Ellis receives Roy Campanella Award

The Dodgers didn’t know what they were going to get from A.J. Ellis this year, at 31 years old and an everyday major-league catcher for the first time in his life.

Seamlessly, Ellis has asserted himself as one of the National League’s best defensive backstops and an on-base machine — in the process giving Dodgers necessary stability at the most important defensive position and an everyday number eight hitter. He’s also handled a pitching staff that ranks third in the NL in ERA (3.42) and second in opponents’ batting average (.239).

For these reasons, Ellis was named the winner of the seventh annual Roy Campanella Award, given to the Dodger player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher. The award, which was voted upon by Dodger uniform personnel, will be presented to Ellis by Campanella’s daughter, Joni Campanella Roan, during pre-game ceremonies Saturday night.

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What we know about Eric Gagne’s PED book.

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Former Dodgers reliever Eric Gagn has co-authored an autobiography, in French, with Radio-Canada Sports columnist Martin LeClerc. Beyond its cover and one juicy allegation, little is known about the book itself, but reports are starting to trickle in from various outlets who were leaked preliminary details.
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Kershaw in line to start Friday.

If he doesn’t miss another start, Clayton Kershaw has a chance to make two more starts in 2012. One will come Friday, when the Dodgers host the Colorado Rockies in a potential do-or-die scenario.

Manager Don Mattingly confirmed that Kershaw would start on regular rest Friday, saying “as long as Kersh is good — if nothing happens in the next day — at this point it’s Kersh.”

If the Dodgers lose their next two games in San Diego, and the St. Louis Cardinals win tonight in Houston, the Dodgers will have to beat the Rockies on Friday just to keep their faint playoff hopes alive. It’ll be an important game either way.

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Adrian Gonzalez returns to Petco Park.

Adrian Gonzalez was on the field at Petco Park Tuesday, a couple hours before first pitch, when a crowd of roughly two dozen onlookers screamed his first name in unison. They were all wearing the same thing,navy-blue collared shirts and dark gray slacks that revealed their status as Petco Park employees.

Maybe each of them had a personal memory of Gonzalez, maybe not, but it was a nice moment emblematic of Gonzalez’s personal relationship with San Diego.

“We’ve just got to focus on winning,” Gonzalez said on the eve of his first game here since he was traded to Boston in December 2010. “But I was born here, grew up here, and so there’s definitely a lot more connection.”

When he came to the plate in the first inning, the reception was more lukewarm, a mix of boos and cheers from a typically small crowd. Many of those cheers came from Dodger fans.

But Gonzalez said before the game that the reception didn’t matter. San Diego is still home — literally –and he spent the Dodgers’ off-day Monday with his wife and daughter. “We went down to Chula Vista,” he said. “Had some really good tacos.”
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Decision on Kershaw coming tonight.

Clayton Kershaw threw a normal bullpen session prior to Tuesday’s game in San Diego and cleared himself to pitch “as soon as possible — tomorrow.”

The Dodgers won’t let Kershaw start on two days’ rest, but Kershaw’s upbeat evaluation was certainly good news for a team in search of a late-September miracle in their playoff chase. Kershaw’s return to health from the pain in his right hip is becoming a minor miracle of its own.

“I have no medical reasoning for why it feels good now and didn’t feel good before,” he said.

Manager Don Mattingly said that he would meet with general manager Ned Colletti on Tuesday night for a final decision on Kershaw’s next start. They seem to be leaning toward letting Kershaw to start on regular rest Friday against the Colorado Rockies.

“Everybody’s OK with the decision, what we’re thinking,” Mattingly said, “but it’s just a matter of making sure Ned’s involved with it, everybody else is involved with it.”

Kershaw said that he stopped doing lower-body lifting in the gym, but that’s been the only change to his between-starts routine.

“Everything’s been totally normal,” Mattingly said. “He’s doing everything that he would do after any other start throughout the course of the whole season. I saw him in the lobby yesterday and he’s like, ‘when am I pitching again?’ ”

Mattingly did allow for the possibility that Kershaw wouldn’t pitch if the Dodgers are out of playoff contention by Friday. In the worst-case scenario, the Dodgers would be six games out of the final wild-card spot with six games to play if they are swept by the San Diego Padres, and the Cardinals beat the Houston Astros in their next two games.

Kershaw has pitched 211.2 innings this season and 649.1 in the past three seasons combined.

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