Alex Guerrero returns to Triple-A, “has a chance to be up here,” per Dodgers GM.

Alex Guerrero

Alex Guerrero could join the Dodgers in a utility infield role by the end of this season. (Associated Press photo)

 

SAN FRANCISCO >> Alex Guerrero‘s long road back from a vicious dugout fight in May has taken him back to Triple-A Albuquerque.

Guerrero’s rehab was transferred from Single-A Rancho Cucamonga today to Triple-A. The Isotopes are playing a game tonight in Reno, Nevada. It was in a game with Albuquerque that Guerrero had part of his left ear bitten off by Miguel Olivo in the visitors’ dugout in Salt Lake City.

“There’s a good chance had he not had the incident, he probably would’ve been here by now,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said.

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Alex Guerrero doubles in first rehab game with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

Alex Guerrero went 1 for 2, with a double and a fly ball, and played two innings at second base in his first rehab game for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga.

The infielder is working back from a gruesome fight that cost him a portion of his left ear, bit off by then-teammate Miguel Olivo. Guerrero didn’t play for 51 days after the incident in a Triple-A game May 20.

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Dodgers release Miguel Olivo, two days after brutal fight with teammate Alex Guerrero.

Miguel Olivo

Miguel Olivo was released by the Dodgers on Thursday. (Getty Images)

The Dodgers released Miguel Olivo on Thursday, two days after the catcher slugged teammate Alex Guerrero and bit off a portion of his ear in the middle of a Triple-A game in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Olivo had been suspended by the Albuquerque Isotopes on Wednesday. The Dodgers have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

The 35-year-old was only added to the Dodgers’ 40-man roster in April after a somewhat tumultuous spring training. Olivo signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers in January and received an invitation to the major-league camp. Despite batting .263 (5 for 19) in limited Cactus League playing time, Olivo was returned to the minor leagues as the Dodgers opted to keep three catchers (A.J. Ellis, Drew Butera and Tim Federowicz).

Olivo requested his release at the time but ultimately accepted an assignment to Albuquerque, where he batted .368 (28 for 76). After Ellis was placed on the disabled list and Federowicz struggled to hit major-league pitching, the Dodgers purchased Olivo’s contract May 1 and let him start six of the next 10 games.

But Olivo struggled to hit too. He struck out nine times in his last 13 at-bats while failing to collect a hit. When Ellis was activated from the disabled list May 14, Olivo was optioned back to Albuquerque. Tuesday marked Olivo’s fourth start since returning to the minors.
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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.

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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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