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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Daily Distractions: A.J. Ellis to miss 4 to 6 weeks following arthroscopic surgery.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis underwent a 20-minute arthroscopic procedure, performed by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache, to debride (clean up) the medial meniscus of his left knee. According to the team, he will start his rehabilitation tomorrow and recovery is expected in 4-6 weeks.

Catcher Tim Federowicz, who wasn’t in the Albuquerque Isotopes starting lineup Monday or today, is expected to be recalled from the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in time for tonight’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

On Oct. 5, 2012, ElAttrache performed a 30-minute clean up procedure on Ellis’ medial and lateral meniscus.

Ellis is already recovering and receiving top medical care:

Some bullet points for a Draw a Bird Day:
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Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis (torn meniscus) to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his left knee.

A.J. EllisThe Dodgers will be without starting catcher A.J. Ellis this week and beyond.

Ellis has a torn meniscus in his left knee and will undergo arthroscopic surgery Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, the team announced. The team is expected to announce a timetable for recovery, as well as a corresponding roster move, after the procedure.

In October 2012, Ellis had arthroscopic surgery on the same knee after playing 133 games in his first major-league season as the Dodgers’ starting catcher.

Ellis, who turns 33 in two days, was batting .167 (4 for 24) with four walks in seven games this season. Last year, Ellis played 115 games and batted .238/.318/.364. He was a finalist for the National League Gold Glove award.

Drew Butera started in Ellis’ place in the Dodgers’ 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants on Sunday, but the Dodgers did not announce the injury at the time. The team had a day off Monday.

There are only three catchers on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster: Ellis, Butera and Tim Federowicz, who served as Ellis’ backup last season.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis: “It didn’t feel like Opening Day,” and other Game 1 observations.

SYDNEY — If we were to focus just on the baseball, Opening Day followed a very predictable script. Clayton Kershaw was the best pitcher in the ballpark. The Dodgers’ bullpen followed a predictable order of Chris Perez (⅓ of an inning), Brian Wilson (1 inning) and Kenley Jansen (1 inning) in closing out the game without allowing a run. Paul Goldschmidt didn’t waste a single at-bat but the Dodgers have a deeper lineup, and found a way to score more runs than their opponent. The final score was 3-1 and you can read about the game here.

Also, if we were to focus just on the baseball, we would completely miss the point of staging Opening Day on another continent 12,000 kilometers — about 7,500 miles, if this conversion app is working right — away from Los Angeles.

“No, it didn’t feel like Opening Day,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It felt like a game that we’re playing here trying to bring baseball to Australia. We knew this game counted, and this game could be a difference between us making and not making the playoffs. We had that passion and that energy behind the game. There was a different attitude today in the clubhouse, a different attitude in batting practice. As far as feeling like Opening Day, I can’t honestly say in my experience it totally was like Opening Day.”

Ellis is unique among the Dodger players. He came to Sydney in November of last year, along with Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Patrick Corbin, on a goodwill tour to drum up interest in the two season-opening games in Sydney. It’s fair to say he was more personally invested in the non-baseball aspects of the game than his teammates. Attendance fell short of a sellout by little more than 4,000 fans.

About those fans. As I warned, they weren’t the savviest bunch. They cheered loudly at the sight of the game’s first foul ball, a rare souvenir that means something completely different in baseball than cricket. Thrice a batter fouled a ball atop the roof overhanging the seats behind home plate. On one occasion, the ball remained lodged on the roof; the other two times it fell back toward the waiting hands of the crowd.

When Scott Van Slyke hit the first and only home run of the game — of the season, no less — it landed into a near-empty section of seats just beyond the right-field fence. There were two empty swaths of seats in the outfield, a virtual impossibility in the U.S.

Here, the home run elicited less a reaction than the first foul ball.

“Toronto was like that when we first started going there,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, “but it didn’t take long.”

A few more notes and observations:
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Carl Crawford scratched from Dodgers’ lineup against the Arizona Diamondbacks as a precaution.

Carl Crawford

Dodgers left fielder Carl Crawford will miss Thursday’s game against the Arizona Diamondbacks. (Associated Press photo)

There were a couple early-morning changes to the Dodgers’ lineup Thursday.

Carl Crawford was removed as a precaution with tightness in his upper right leg. Crawford said that his hamstring was “a little tight” Wednesday, “just the whole day.” The 32-year-old outfielder had an adventure in the field, overrunning a fly ball in the first inning that fell for a triple, and also scored from first base on Yasiel Puig‘s third-inning double.

Crawford said his hamstring felt fine Thursday morning and that he wouldn’t be restricted from anything other than playing in the game. Last year, Crawford missed 30 games with a strained left hamstring.

Manager Don Mattingly said that the issue is with Crawford’s quadriceps muscle and not his hamstring; Crawford had the entire upper leg wrapped after Wednesday’s 4-1 loss to the Diamondbacks. Regardless, Mattingly said that Crawford would get another day off Saturday and potentially return to the lineup Saturday when the Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers.

Catcher A.J. Ellis reported to camp with the flu and was sent home. “He didn’t look great,” Mattingly said. Ellis is expected back Friday.

Zack Greinke is scheduled to throw two innings and the starters are expected to play five. The game is set to begin at 1 p.m. (noon Pacific) from Camelback Ranch. Here are the lineups for both teams:

Dodgers Diamondbacks
Dee Gordon 2B Tony Campana CF
Andre Ethier CF Cliff Pennington 2B
Hanley Ramirez SS Chris Owings SS
Adrian Gonzalez 1B Mike Jacobs 1B
Yasiel Puig RF Matt Tuiasosopo RF
Mike Baxter LF Jake Lamb 3B
Juan Uribe 3B Shelley Duncan DH
Tim Federowicz C Danny Dorn LF
Alex Guerrero 2B Tuffy Gosewich C
(Zack Greinke P) (Randall Delgado P)

Daily Distractions: Some not-so-final thoughts on home plate collisions.

Brian Jordan

Home plate collisions are rare and exciting, but their elimination was a calculated risk by Major League Baseball. (Associated Press photo)

In my story for today’s newspaper about the Dodgers’ reactions to the new rule banning home-plate collisions, I focused on the micro: The thoughts in the moment, the individual experiences that gave birth to the thoughts in the moment.

Here are some big-picture figures and facts worth mentioning:

A.J. Ellis is entering his 12th season of professional baseball. He’s played 890 games and estimates that he’s been part of “a dozen or more” home-plate collisions in his career.

Tim Federowicz is entering his seventh season of professional baseball. He’s played 568 games and has been involved in two collisions.

Drew Butera is entering his 10th professional season. Six hundred ninety two games, “five or six” collisions.

In reality, the scope of Rule 7.13 banning home-plate collisions in baseball is extremely limited. The three catchers on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster have played a total of 2,150 professional games — the equivalent of 13 full seasons, and then some — and have been part of a total of 20 collisions. Let’s call it one collision every 100 games.

The plays are memorable precisely because they are rare. “In all of them,” Butera said of his collisions, “they were in close games, toward the end of the game.” Fans remember those kind of plays.

That said, the tradeoff for the league was a calculated one.

Those are the facts, and baseball isn’t hiding them. If anything, the tipping point might have been when Joe Mauer visited the Mayo Clinic following a concussion and came back a first baseman.

Still, Federowicz wasn’t convinced that he’s entirely safer because of the rule.

“Instead of being able to hit us in the chest,” he said, “they have to take out our knees. I guess we have to learn a new technique for tagging guys out.”

Remember, rule 7.13 is “experimental” for this season. If catchers are still in line for serious injuries, the league will simply change the rule.

Some bullet points for a Soviet Occupation Day:
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