The Dodgers shed a third catcher from their camp roster in as many days Tuesday by re-assigning Jesus Flores to the minors. That effectively hands the backup backstop’s job to Tim Federowicz.
Federowicz was the front-runner to be the number-two behind A.J. Ellis, but not a shoo-in when the Dodgers invited four more experienced catchers — Flores, Ramon Castro, Wilkin Castillo and Eliezer Alfonzo — as non-roster invitees. Alfonzo never reported to camp. Castro and Flores never hit. Castillo did (.333/.333/.389) but it wasn’t enough to unseat Federowicz, a 24-year-old who has never been on an Opening Day roster.
The bullpen picture became more clear when Shawn Tolleson was optioned to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp. The 25-year-old right-hander only allowed one run in seven appearances, but the team appears intent on giving a bullpen job to a more experienced righty such as Peter Moylan, Mark Lowe or Kevin Gregg, or rookie Josh Wall. The 34-year-old Gregg, who’s allowed two hits and no runs in six appearances, looks like the front-runner among that group. Left-hander Paco Rodriguez also remains in camp.
Justin Sellers was the third camp casualty Tuesday. The infielder was optioned to the minor-league camp after batting .150/.150/.190, with 3 hits and no walks in 21 plate appearances.
The major-league camp roster is down to 40 players.
Tony Gwynn Jr. accepted an assignment to the Dodgers’ minor-league camp, catcher Ramon Castro was released and catcher Wilkin Castillo was re-assigned to the minor-league side Monday. The Dodgers have 43 players in camp.
Gwynn’s standing on the Dodgers’ depth chart has only fallen since he was designated for assignment and sent to Triple-A Albuquerque late last season. The Dodgers acquired Skip Schumaker for outfield depth over the winter and have seen Yasiel Puig emerge as an option at the major-league level, if not by Opening Day then maybe sometime this year. Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford have made steady progress in their recovery from shoulder and elbow surgery, respectively. Both could be ready for Opening Day, certainly Kemp and maybe Crawford.
A.J. Ellis is back for his second year as the Dodgers’ starter, and hopes to be fully recovered from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in October. Matt Treanor is gone after one year as the backup. The Dodgers will go in a different direction by giving rookie Tim Federowicz the first crack at the backup job – a small but notably different direction from recent years, when veterans like Treanor, Dioner Navarro, Brad Ausmus, Mike Lieberthal and Sandy Alomar held the role.
The four non-roster invitees in this group are an interesting collection of characters, some with checkered pasts. Can you say “Real World: Camelback Ranch”?
Jesus Flores is 28 years old and has caught 263 major-league games. That makes him younger and more experienced than the Dodgers’ starter, A.J. Ellis.
The Washington Nationals granted Flores free agency in November and the Dodgers signed him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training on Tuesday.
Flores figures to compete with Tim Federowicz for the backup job. Considering Federowicz’s lack of experience (10 major-league games), it could make for an interesting competition.
Flores’ career batting numbers aren’t much to look at, though he did hit eight home runs and drive in 59 in only 90 games in 2008. The Venezuela native batted .301 in 2009, when surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right shoulder limited his season to 29 games. Flores hasn’t been the same since.
He didn’t play at all in 2010 and worried whether his career was over. He came back to play 30 games in 2011 and 83 last season, all in a backup role for the Nationals. His slash line since the surgery: .212/.249/.325. Even Flores’ defense seems to have suffered; since the surgery he’s thrown out only 13 of 67 attempted base stealers – 19.4 percent.
Flores is currently playing for Navegantes del Magallanes of the Venezuelan Winter League.