It’s been just over four weeks since catcher A.J. Ellis has been behind the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers after suffering a tear in his meniscus and undergoing surgery.

Well, it appears the 33-year-old is nearing his return to the field as the captain of the defense. The Dodgers sent him to Camelback Ranch in Arizona in order to get some work and at-bats.

According to Ben Standig of MLB.com, the team is sending Ellis away from the team in order to prepare to return. Dodgers’ skipper Don Mattingly explains the move:

For him to be able to get more at-bats, control the number of at-bats he gets, we can control the work and the amount that he’s getting every day,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the call to send Ellis out versus rehabbing with the club. “Then we’ll just kind of decide at some point if we need to push him up as far as competition and get him in different places before we bring him back.”

Ellis suffered a setback in his rehab when he felt irritation in his knee after running two weeks ago, so it’s good news that he’s remained healthy enough to begin a rehab assignment.

The team has not gotten quality production from its catching corps so far this year. Once Ellis went down with injury, the club relied on Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera behind the plate, which has resulted in a combined -0.1 WAR. After batting just .109 in 13 starts, Federowicz was sent down to Triple A Albuquerque in favor of veteran backstop Miguel Olivo, who equaled Fedex’s hit total in less than half as many games.

A.J. was only batting .167 prior to his injury and hit just .238 in 115 games in 2013. However, the 33-year-old catcher and beef jerky aficionado will be a welcomed addition to the club when he returns as a veteran leader, reliable on-base machine and Clayton Kershaw’s confidant.

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Jared formerly covered prospects and wrote editorials for Dodgers Nation. You can find Jared on Twitter @JaredJMassey

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