A.J. Ellis’ strange slash line is almost unprecedented.

A.J. Ellis has an unusual slash line: A .192 batting average, .335 on-base percentage and a .234 slugging percentage.

It takes a special combination of traits to achieve those numbers: A good eye, little power, and a complete inability to hit for average. That’s been Ellis this year. But exactly how special is this combination?

Thanks to baseball-reference.com’s play index, there is an answer to this question.

Since 1901, only one player has finished a season with 300 or more plate appearances, a batting average below .200, an on-base percentage above .330 and a slugging percentage below .240. That man is Jimmy Sheckard. In his final major-league season of 1913, Sheckard batted .194/.368/.238.

Yep, it’s the same Jimmy Sheckard whose three triples in one game (in 1901) were not matched by a Dodger until Yasiel Puig did it last month in San Francisco.

Look out, Jimmy. Now A.J. is coming for you too.

Dodgers activate A.J. Ellis from the 15-day disabled list, option Tim Federowicz to Triple-A.

A.J. Ellis

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis missed 17 games with a sprained ankle before being activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday. (Getty Images)


A.J. Ellis was back in the Dodgers’ lineup Friday, 19 days after he sprained his ankle celebrating Josh Beckett‘s no-hitter in Philadelphia.

Ellis is batting .170/.350/.213 in a season limited by injuries to 15 games. The 33-year-old catcher missed 39 days in April and May after undergoing a procedure on the mensicus in his left knee.

As a group, Dodger catchers rank near the bottom of the league in batting average (29th, .185), on-base percentage (27th, .268), slugging percentage (29th, .275) and weighted on-base average (29th, .247) this year. Tim Federowicz, who has the worst on-base percentage of any major-leaguer with at least 50 plate appearances, was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Ellis.

Ellis might give the Dodgers’ lineup a dimension it missed in his absence.

“Over the course of last year, the last couple years, even when his average may not be jumping out at you, he’s always a guy that gives you a tough at-bat every day,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He makes a pitcher work. I think we’ll look forward to that. It just gets another ‘quality out’ when you make an out.”

Ellis’ 4.37 pitches per plate appearances in 2013 were the most by any major-league player with at least 400 plate appearances.

A.J. Ellis sprains ankle celebrating Josh Beckett’s no-hitter, goes on 15-day disabled list.

A.J. Ellis sprained ankle

A.J. Ellis (second from right) said he sprained his right ankle immediately after this photo was taken, when he landed on Drew Butera’s catcher’s mask on the turf in Philadelphia. (Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)


A.J. Ellis spoke in somber tones Monday as he described one of baseball’s all-time freak injuries. An old adage was certainly at play: It’s only funny if it doesn’t happen to you.

Ellis sprained his ankle Sunday while the Dodgers ran out to congratulate Josh Beckett for his no-hitter at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. Ellis didn’t catch the game — Drew Butera did — but Ellis leaped and landed on Butera’s discarded catcher’s mask in the midst of the celebration.

“I knew right away it was more significant than other ankle rolls I’ve had in the past,” Ellis said. “I immediately came in, saw (Dodgers head athletic trainer) Stan Conte, got an x-ray which came back negative, treated it the entire flight home yesterday, and came in this morning.

“I woke up and called Stan this morning I didn’t think I would be able to play the next few days just because of the way I felt. Probably best for the club to get another catcher up here. So I’m beyond frustrated, still kind of shocked and just ready to get back in the rhythm of things, whenever that might be.”

The Dodgers recalled Tim Federowicz from Triple-A Albuquerque with Ellis on the 15-day disabled list. Ellis was scheduled to meet with team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache to determine the severity of the injury and a timetable for recovery.
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Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis takes batting practice, but return from the disabled list is on hold.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday. He took batting practice in the afternoon along with Juan Uribe, separate from the rest of the club.

Though he looked healthy, the Dodgers will wait at least a day before activating the catcher from the 15-day disabled list.

“We feel like today tells us if he feels good, he bounces back after catching two days,” Mattingly said. “He feels like he’s ready to play. Medical feels like he’s ready to play. It’s soon.”

Drew Butera is catching Josh Beckett and Miguel Olivo is serving as the backup.

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:
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A.J. Ellis singles, walks, caught stealing in first rehabilitation game.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis went 1 for 2 with a single and a walk, and was caught stealing in his first rehabilitation game Sunday in El Paso, Texas. He caught all nine innings of the Albuquerque Isotopes’ 11-0 loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas.

Ellis, who had arthroscopic surgery on the meniscus in his left knee April 8, is expected to play at least one more game with the Isotopes.

“He’ll play tomorrow then we’ll evaluate where he’s at,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Sunday.

Tuesday will mark exactly five weeks since the surgery. Initial estimates placed the timetable for Ellis’ recovery at 4 to 6 weeks.

Miguel Olivo joins the Dodgers, TIm Federowicz optioned to Triple-A as Dodgers shuffle catchers.

Miguel Olivo

Miguel Olivo is a veteran of 1,116 major-league games, but none since June of last year. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers have had some wiggle room with their roster for at least a couple weeks now. From the time Chad Billingsley exited his first (and still only) rehabilitation start on April 6, it’s been less and less likely that the right-hander would return within the first two months of the season.

Wednesday, the Dodgers formally acknowledged that fact. Billingsley was transfered to the 60-day disabled list and the Dodgers selected the contract of catcher Miguel Olivo to the 40-man roster.

Rather than continue to stash Olivo in Triple-A Albuquerque, where he’s batting .390 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 15 games, the Dodgers recalled Olivo and optioned catcher Tim Federowicz to Albuquerque for the second time this season.

Olivo, 35, hasn’t appeared in a major-league game since June of last year with the Miami Marlins. He showed well in spring training, batting .263 (5 for 19) in nine games as a non-roster invitee on a minor-league contract. When he was returned to the minors, Olivo requested his release.

Ultimately Olivo bid his time at Triple-A and was rewarded for his patience.

Federowicz was batting .109 (5 for 46) with two doubles in 13 games. Neither he nor Drew Butera (.190) provided much offense in the absence of starter A.J. Ellis, but Butera is out of options.

Ellis, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee April 7, is expected back in mid-May.

Daily Distractions: After a long dry spell, Dodgers catchers are starting to hit.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz is batting .108 since being recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque. (Keith Birmingham/Staff photographer)

A.J. Ellis won’t be catching Clayton Kershaw‘s rehabilitation start Friday in Rancho Cucamonga.

The fact that this was even a possibility, 15 days after the catcher had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, is a bit mind-boggling. Ellis has been taking batting practice regularly, caught Kershaw’s bullpen session Tuesday, and is running on an Alter-G anti-gravity treadmill — the same one that got Matt Kemp in shape during spring training.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that the initial 4-6 week timetable is still in play for Ellis, but that could change soon enough.

In the meantime, a couple trends have emerged. Drew Butera has caught three of Zack Greinke‘s last four starts. The term “personal catcher” hasn’t entered the discussion yet, but the two have had high praise for each other and Mattingly might choose to keep them paired together, even after Ellis returns.

Tim Federowicz has caught 10 games to Butera’s six since Ellis went down, and has just four hits in 37 at-bats. Two of those hits have come since Paul Goldschmidt whacked him in the left hand over the weekend.

“Each day is getting better,” Federowicz said Wednesday. “Right now I’m really focused on my defense. Offense will come. I’m not worried about it.”

Can fans be so patient?

In spite of the fact that the two healthy catchers have a modest three-game hitting streak, Federowicz and Butera are still batting a combined .145 (8 for 55) since Ellis had his surgery. For his part, Ellis was batting just .167 (4 for 24) before going on the DL.

The Dodgers might have bigger problems than this one, so it’s flown a bit under the radar. Just don’t expect to see any catchers batting higher than eighth unless one, at last, catches fire.

Some bullet points for a World Lab Animal Day:
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Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will throw bullpen session Tuesday, rehab start next?

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw will throw a bullpen session Tuesday, his next step on the road to recovery from a strained muscle in his upper back.

Kershaw threw approximately 45-50 pitches in a three-inning simulated game Sunday at Dodger Stadium. He reported no pain Monday, then backed up his extremely limited self-report by playing long toss in the Dodger Stadium outfield (above). Kershaw threw from roughly the left-field foul line to teammate Dan Haren in left-center, well in excess of 100 feet.

Neither Kershaw nor Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would say what Kershaw’s next step is after Tuesday. If healthy, Kershaw figures to make a rehabilitation start soon.

Single-A Rancho Cucamonga plays three straight home games starting Friday, followed by four straight nearby in San Bernardino. Triple-A Albuquerque has 12 straight home games (with no days off) starting Monday.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis, who caught Kershaw’s simulated game, said he felt fine Monday. He participated in batting practice for the fourth straight day, but otherwise stayed off his feet and didn’t catch any live pitching.

After multiple procedures on his left knee, Dodgers’ A.J. Ellis intends to change the way he catches.

A.J. Ellis has needed two clean-up procedures on the meniscus in his left knee in the last 19 months. That’s why a reporter, tongue in cheek, told the Dodgers catcher Wednesday to make sure his surgeon gets it right next time.

“He got it right the first time,” Ellis said. “He got it right the second time.”

Ellis was back in the Dodgers’ dugout for the first time since undergoing the arthroscopic procedure Monday. He said he began putting weight on his left leg Tuesday and was able to leave his crutches at home when he left for the ballpark. His progress has been quick and noticeable. As for that four-to-six week rehab timetable the team offered Monday, Ellis wasn’t willing to make any predictions — but he’s clearly trying to speed things up.

The catcher, who turns 33 today, hopes the second procedure is his last. He was typically quick to accept responsibility for needing the same surgery twice.
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