Daily Distractions: Who will be the Dodgers’ backup catcher when A.J. Ellis returns from the disabled list?

A.J. Ellis, Brian Gorman

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis will play in a Triple-A rehab game today. (Karl Gehring/The Denver Post)

A.J. Ellis will play his second rehab game for Triple-A Albuquerque in as many days today. It could be his last. Tuesday is smack-dab in the middle of the 4 to 6 week timetable the team gave at the time of the arthroscopic procedure on Ellis’ left knee, so it would make perfect sense for him to rejoin the Dodgers then.

Without Ellis, the catching duties have been split fairly liberally among Miguel Olivo, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz, who’s currently in Triple-A. Which of the three becomes the backup once Ellis returns?

“If you want me to make that decision now, I probably can’t do that,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said before Sunday’s game against the Giants, a 7-4 loss. “I wouldn’t want to do that anyway. We’ll figure that out as we get there. It comes down to conversations, us talking about what we need, what we want that position to be and what we think about it.”

Mattingly said the conversations have already begun.

When imagining where the conversation begins, it’s tempting to focus on offense. There isn’t much to look at there. Olivo started hot, but in his last 11 at-bats he has no hits and eight strikeouts. Overall he is 5 for 23 (.217). Butera is 10 for 44 (.227) with two home runs. Federowicz was 5 for 46 (.109) with one home run before his demotion.

Of course, the Dodgers aren’t focusing on offense from their catchers. More important to the conversation is how each player handles the position defensively and how well they work with the pitching staff. Those are harder to quantify, especially in a small sample size.

Nonetheless, here we go.

Butera has the lowest catchers’ ERA of the bunch (2.90, 10th in baseball) and hasn’t made an error. He’s also tied for the league lead in passed balls (four) and has thrown out only one of four attempted base stealers.

Of course, passed balls are a judgment call. Olivo wasn’t charged with a passed ball last night when J.P. Howell threw a slider in the dirt in the 10th inning. But because Olivo didn’t keep the ball in front him, a runner was able to score from third base. In 54 innings, Olivo has a 4.73 catchers’ ERA. Two baserunners have tried stealing on him; one was caught.

Pitch framing is not an asset for any of the Dodgers’ catchers, according to StatCorner.com.

We could parse Federowicz’s numbers, but his contract status separates him from this discussion if Olivo, Butera and Ellis are healthy. Federowicz can be optioned to the minors at any time. He’ll stay there so long as he continues to miss 48 percent of the breaking pitches he swings at. (That was his miss rate in the majors.) Butera and Olivo are out of options, so one of the two will probably be designated for assignment in the next 48 hours.

“We’ve been pretty clear about what we like out of our catchers,” Mattingly said. “The backup catcher … you’re not playing as much. You want to make sure that you’re getting the right guy back there for all the things you’re asking him to do — studying, working with pitchers, all those things because it’s just what we want out of the position. As much as what we’re looking for offensively … it’s what we’re looking for out of the position.”

Some bullet points for an International Nurses Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: A scout’s take on Erisbel Arruebarrena.

Erisbel Arruebarrena

Infielder Erisbel Arruebarrena is batting .136 for the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate.

Erisbel Arruebarrena provided a nice distraction during spring training. Reporters covering the Dodgers spent countless minutes rolling our “R”s, trying to pronounce Arruebarrena, figuring out how many “U”s were in the name, and mostly waiting for the 24-year-old shortstop to arrive in the U.S.

When he finally did get his visa and arrive in spring training on March 13, the Cuban shortstop was shuffled to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp. Then the major-leaguers left for Australia. Hardly anyone got to see the kid play baseball.

Nearly two months later there he is, taking up a space on the 40-man roster and $25 million of the Dodgers’ payroll over the next five years. Ever since Arruebarrena reported to Double-A Chattanooga, he’s proceeded to bat .136/.188/.220, which hardly seems to justify a $25 million contract. Was this signing a mistake? Was rolling my “R”s one big time-killerrrrrr?

A pro scout who recently watched Arruebarrena in the Southern League chimed in with this report.

I’d say Erisbel’s current offensive numbers are an accurate representation of his abilities – he has a long/loopy swing, almost like a golf swing that struggles to make contact with any type of pitch. He has serious recognition problems vs. AA-effective secondary stuff, turning his back early & often vs. almost all curveballs/sliders. Those things combined lead to rare contact on mistake fastballs only, or if a pitcher makes a bad decision to throw him the same loopy curveball three times in a row.

That said, him at SS is sometimes awesome to watch; way above instincts, really easy/super-quick receive-and-throw actions deep in the hole or going up the middle with a really good feel to complete very tough plays. He did flash a couple mental errors, like dropping a popup or ball bouncing off his glove with the infield in. Even with the bat how it is now I’d like to have him in my organization, because his floor is first-division middle infield-utility. As he gets comfortable over the next couple seasons in the US I think his feel/baseball IQ will improve a bit/less mental errors on both sides. I see him as a mid-.500s OPS guy but with major league top-5 shortstop defense.

Make of that what you will. It’s the most up-to-date scouting report we have on a player we know little about, perhaps the least known member of the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.

Some bullet points for a Europe Day:
Continue reading

Daily Distractions: The Dodgers’ “old-timers game” lineup is a star-studded affair.

Shawn Green

Former Dodgers outfielder Shawn Green, who participated in the 2013 World Baseball Classic for Team Israel, looks like he can still play. (Associated Press photo)

One of the first fantasy baseball leagues I participated in was a “legacy” league back in the 1990s. You could draft players from any era. Old Hoss Radbourn was in the league. So was Lyman Bostock.

That memory was rekindled when the Dodgers announced the list of participants for Saturday’s “old-timer’s game,” which will be played at Dodger Stadium after the 1 p.m. game between the Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

I mean, an outfield of Darryl Strawberry, Dusty Baker and Raul Mondesi? An infield of Nomar Garciaparra, Maury Wills and Eric Karros?

Admission to the game is free with a ticket to the Dodgers-Giants game. Introductions will be followed by a two-inning game. The full list of participants:

Team 1 (will wear Dodger home jerseys)
Dusty Baker OF
Tim Wallach 3B
Mickey Hatcher SS/OF
Steve Sax 2B
Mike Marshall 1B
Reggie Smith OF/1B
Steve Yeager C
Raul Mondesi OF
Davey Lopes 2B
Darryl Strawberry 1B/OF
Ron Cey 3B
Eric Gagné P
Fernando Valenzuela P

Team 2 (will wear Dodger alternate road jerseys)
Shawn Green OF
Derrel Thomas 2B/C
Bill Russell SS
Ken Landreaux OF
Eric Karros 1B
Rick Monday OF
Nomar Garciaparra 3B
Maury Wills SS
Steve Finley OF
Orel Hershiser P
Rick Honeycutt P

Additionally, Tommy Davis, Charlie Hough, “Sweet” Lou Johnson, Manny Mota, Don Newcombe and Jerry Reuss will be on hand and a part of Old-Timers pre-game introductions.

Some bullet points for a South Korean Parents’ Day:
Continue reading