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.
Continue reading

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:
Continue reading

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:
Continue reading

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.

Spring training ends poorly for Dodgers’ Dan Haren.

Miguel Rojas

Miguel Rojas, who grounded out on this at-bat Saturday, finished spring training with a .387 batting average, second on the Dodgers to Justin Turner’s .389. (Associated Press photo)

ANAHEIM — Dan Haren‘s final spring tuneup was one to forget.

The right-hander allowed all six Angels runs in a 6-2 Dodgers loss before an announced crowd of 43,553 at Angel Stadium on Saturday.

The Dodgers resume regular-season play tomorrow in San Diego. It’s the Padres’ first game of the season. Opening Day for most major-league teams is Monday.

Last weekend, the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks twice in Sydney, Australia and have a regular-season record of 2-0. They came back and lost two of three to the Angels, officially finishing spring training with a 7-12-5 record.

Haren didn’t go to Australia. Since the Dodgers only needed two starting pitchers (and kept Paul Maholm for insurance), Haren stayed behind and pitched minor-league spring training games in Arizona.

The playing environment changed dramatically Saturday. Haren went from games with no official statistics and no names on the back of players’ jerseys to a sold-out stadium. The change seemed to have caught him by surprise.

The Angels scored two runs in the first inning on back-to-back RBI doubles by Albert Pujols and David Freese. In the second inning, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun hit back-to-back home runs.

Trout’s home run came on a hanging split-fingered fastball, Haren said, while almost all of the Angels’ other hard hits came off his cut fastball. Haren allowed six hits in two innings.

“It was just kind of getting it a little bit flat,” Haren said of his cutter. “I have to have the mindset of driving it down and away to a righty rather than just leaving it out there.

“I’m going to throw quite a few of them in the bullpen. I need to get that sharpened up. My other pitches were actually OK. I struggled with it last start too in the minor leagues. I threw a bunch in the last inning of that game.”

Haren starts Wednesday in San Diego, the finale of the three-game series with the Padres. His final major-league spring training ERA: 6.00.

“It’s the last one that doesn’t count,” Haren said. “No use thinking about it too much. I got some work in. It’s been a while since I felt like I’ve been on a mound, it seems like, at least in a real game. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to. I feel OK. Just flush it down and move on to the next one.”

Said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: ”I’m glad it’s tonight and not Wednesday.”

The Dodgers scored both of their runs in the third inning on a two-run double by Chone Figgins. Most of the starters played only two defensive innings.

It was a good day for the Dodgers’ bullpen. Against almost entirely major-league competition, they combined for six scoreless innings: One by Brandon League, three by Matt Magill and two by Red Patterson.

The box score is here.

A few more notes:
Continue reading

The Dodgers’ 30-man travel roster to Sydney, Australia: A closer look.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero was on the Dodgers’ plane to Sydney, Australia, but might not be on the Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

In case you missed it somehow, the Dodgers announced their travel roster Sunday before boarding a flight to Sydney, Austrlia.

I didn’t have time or space for a longer analysis of the 30 names yesterday, but one is probably needed.
Continue reading

Dodgers’ Sydney shuffle: Dan Haren and Carl Crawford out; Paul Maholm, Drew Butera in.


With roughly 24 hours left to choose which 30 players will be on a flight bound for Sydney, Australia, Don Mattingly said he’s “99 percent” certain on how to set the Dodgers’ travel roster.

Carl Crawford is out. His fiancee, television personality Evelyn Lozada, is due to give birth soon. MLB rules allow the Dodgers to place Crawford on the paternity leave list, which provides between one and three days for a player to attend to the birth of his child. Crawford could be re-activated for the Dodgers’ series against the San Diego Padres beginning March 30.

Mattingly said that who plays left field in the two games will depend on who’s pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Scott Van Slyke is the favorite to play against left-hander Patrick Corbin, the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter. Since scheduled Game 2 starter Trevor Cahill is day-to-day with a knee injury, Mattingly wouldn’t venture to guess who starts in left field beyond Opening Day.

On the pitching front, Mattingly said that Dan Haren will not make the trip and Paul Maholm will. That still depends on the health of Clayton Kershaw, who starts against the Chicago White Sox tonight, and Hyun-Jin Ryu, who starts tomorrow against the Colorado Rockies. So long as both Kershaw and Ryu are healthy, Maholm is the favorite to start the Dodgers’ exhibition game against the Australian National Team next Thursday in Sydney.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks get three “exempt” roster spots for players who will not play in Sydney, and then can be activated for their first regular-season game in North America March 30 in San Diego. Haren is one of the three as of now. Maholm could be another, then start the game against the Australian National Team, so long as Kershaw and Ryu are healthy.

How certain is all of this?

“We’ve pretty much decided,” Mattingly said. “Nothing’s been in stone for us just because of what could happen. Everybody that we feel like’s going to go for the most part, 99 percent, kind of knows that’s where we’re leaning at this point without any last-second stuff. The guys that we think are going to pitch over there know as of now.”

Mattingly added that three catchers will make the trip. A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz have been locks since camp began. Drew Butera is the only other catcher on the 40-man roster and seems like the favorite for the third job.