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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Daily Distractions: MLB clarifies its ‘transfer rule,’ but 7.13 is still baffling to Dodgers catcher.

Major League Baseball gave its players roughly one month to adjust to a new, literal interpretation of its “transfer rule.” Catch the ball, transfer the ball from glove to hand, make sure each of these steps is deliberate enough to be discerned on video review, and you’re good. That sounds simple. In practice, the rule demanded that fielders break a lifetime’s worth of hard-worn habits. Hanley Ramirez got burned on the call once this season, when he lost his grip on the ball after recording what looked like a forceout at second base. The umpire on scene ruled Ramirez didn’t make a catch in the first place.

Friday morning, the league officially changed its mind.

Beginning tonight, MLB announced that umpires will enforce the transfer rule according to a new standard — that is, the old standard. According to a league release, a catch or valid forceout/tag has occurred:

…if the fielder had complete control over the ball in his glove, but drops the ball after intentionally opening his glove to make the transfer to his throwing hand. There is no requirement that the fielder successfully remove the ball from his glove in order for it to be ruled a catch. If the fielder drops the ball while attempting to remove it to make a throw, the Umpires should rule that the ball had been caught, provided that the fielder had secured it in his glove before attempting the transfer. The Umpires will continue to use their judgment as to whether the fielder had complete control over the ball before the transfer.

It was too late for Ramirez, but it was nice to see the league act quickly. That said, there’s still at least one rule that the Dodgers would like to see clarified. Ramirez was involved in this one, too.

From my game story last night, in case you missed it, here’s what happened:

With Hanley Ramirez on third base and (Adrian) Gonzalez on first, (Yasiel) Puig hit a ground ball to Phillies third baseman Cody Asche. Asche fielded the ball deep in the third-base hole and threw to home plate, where Ramirez was out by several feet.

Or was he?

Mattingly popped out of the third-base dugout, asking for help. He demonstrated to the home-plate umpire, Mike DiMuro, what he saw from Philadelphia’s Ruiz: A catcher with both feet planted in front of home plate as Ramirez was bearing down.

According to the rule, which was ratified by MLB and the Players’ Association in spring training, “Unless the catcher is in possession of the ball, the catcher cannot block the pathway of the runner as he is attempting to score. If, in the judgment of the Umpire, the catcher, without possession of the ball, blocks the pathway of the runner, the Umpire shall call or signal the runner safe.”

The problem for Mattingly was that Asche delivered a perfect strike to Ruiz in plenty of time to retire Ramirez. Hunter Wendelstedt initiated a crew chief’s review and baseball’s two new rules for 2014 suddenly collided, an instant replay being used to determine whether a catcher illegally blocked home plate.

Three minutes and 18 seconds later, the call stood. Ramirez was out.

Just before the next inning, I saw Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz in the dugout demonstrating how to block home plate to pitcher Josh Beckett. After the game, Federowicz was still upset and confused by the sequence of events.

“I honestly thought that call was going to be overturned,” he said. “The only thing in their favor is that (Ruiz) got that ball in plenty of time. He probably got it a good 10 feet before the play. That’s what the final decision was probably on. My whole thing is, why have the rule saying you can’t block the plate without the ball, and he blocks the plate without the ball?”

Here’s a still image, taken from the video of the play, that shows where Ruiz was stationed when he caught the ball (unfortunately I couldn’t grab an image just before Ruiz made the catch):

Hanley  Ramirez

Whether Ruiz is illegally blocking Ramirez’s path to home plate represents a judgment call, too. Could Ruiz be more out of the way of the baseline? Of course. But, as noted at the time, Asche made an accurate throw. If Ruiz plants his mitt in the baseline and his body in foul territory to receive the throw, and Ramirez (who left on contact) sprints home at full speed and slides inside the baseline, Ruiz is in jeopardy of not being able to make the tag.

Maybe Wendelstedt factored this into his judgment. Rule 7.13 goes on to state that “it shall not be considered a violation of this rule if the catcher blocks the pathway of the runner in order to field a throw, and the Umpire determines that the catcher could not have fielded the ball without blocking the pathway of the runner.”

Watching the sequence in real time, Federowicz felt that Ruiz didn’t need to lay his right leg in the basepath in order to make the catch. Therefore, Ramirez should have been ruled safe.

“Hanley has nowhere to slide and he’s still out? I guess Hanley’s allowed to hit him in that situation,” Federowicz said. “But again, they scare all these runners from being able to do that. Nobody really knows the correct rule right now.”

Some bullet points for Arbor Day:
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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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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, Diamondbacks announce Opening Day rosters and lineups.

Tim Federowicz

Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues Friday to get the Dodgers to 25 men on their Opening Day roster. (Associated Press photo)

SYDNEY — Greetings from tomorrow.
The Dodgers, as expected, trimmed their roster to 25 this afternoon. Outfielder Joc Pederson, pitcher Zach Lee and infielder Miguel Rojas were reassigned to the minor leagues. Zack Greinke, Dan Haren and Brandon League were given roster exemptions and begin the season as “inactive.” Carl Crawford was placed on paternity leave. Pitchers Chad Billingsley (right elbow surgery) and Josh Beckett (right thumb contusion) and outfielder Matt Kemp (ankle surgery) on were placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday.

Not as expected: Catcher Tim Federowicz was optioned to the minor leagues. Federowicz was on a short list of players with contract options, so even though he spent all of 2013 as the backup to A.J. Ellis, Federowicz won’t be active for the first two games of the season. Drew Butera will back up Ellis.

First pitch is at 1:47 a.m. Pacific Time — not 1, or 1:30, as previously reported here. There is a chance of rain in the forecast and, fortunately, sliding glass windows in the press box.

Game 2 pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu will be speaking at a press conference at the Sydney Cricket Ground shortly, followed by baseball commissioner Bud Selig. If you’re not following me on Twitter or Tout, hop on it and you’ll get game updates throughout the middle of the night.

Or you can just wake up in the morning like a normal person, come back to this blog and catch up on what you missed.

Here is the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster, by position:
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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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Why have the Dodgers shortened their bench in the playoffs?

Through their first seven postseason games, the Dodgers have given at-bats to three position players off their bench: Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker and Michael Young — no Tim Federowicz, Scott Van Slyke or Dee Gordon.

Why the short bench?

“It depends on how the game goes,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “These games have been telling us what to do. When your starting pitching is going deep every day, you don’t use pinch-hitters. Zack went 8, right? Kersh was 7 full. Ryu — when guys are going deep you don’t use pinch-hitters.”

The script changed on Tuesday. Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco was removed after four innings. Schumaker pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot, then was removed from the game, so we could see more of the Dodgers’ bench tonight.

San Francisco Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval (flu) scratched for series finale against Dodgers.

Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval, who homered Wednesday in the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers, will miss the series finale with the flu. (Associated Press photo)

Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval was a late lineup casualty Thursday because of flu symptoms, and he will miss the series finale against the Dodgers tonight at AT&T Park.

Sandoval is 6 for 13 in his career against Dodgers starting pitcher Edinson Volquez with a career .462/.462/.692 slash line. He’s batting .276 this season and clubbed his 14th home run in the Giants’ 6-4 win over the Dodgers last night. Nick Noonan, whose diving stop of a Hanley Ramirez ground ball ended Wednesday’s game, will replace Sandoval at third base.

For the second straight time, Tim Federowicz is catching Volquez. Volquez was sharp with Federowicz behind the plate last Friday in San Diego, allowing one earned run in 6 ⅓ innings. Another strong outing by Volquez will give the Dodgers a tough decision about who should take the ball in a potential playoff Game 4 after Ricky Nolasco struggled again Wednesday.

Other than Federowicz, the Dodgers’ lineup has a very playoff-ready look. The Giants have already clinched a win in the season series against the Dodgers, with 10 wins in the first 18 head-to-head games. However, the Dodgers are 36-36 this season against other National League West teams, with their final four games all coming against divisional opponents — the Giants tonight and the Colorado Rockies this weekend.

That’s a minor footnote, since the Dodgers won’t face any West teams in the playoffs. Cosmetically at least, a losing record within the division would look bad. As my father would say, it’s something to work on.

Here’s how both teams will line up:
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