As the Los Angeles Dodgers entered the offseason, one of the areas the team looked to improve at was the catcher position. Last season, A.J. Ellis saw his offensive production decline as he battled back from early-season knee surgery and later a sprained ankle.
The new front office acquired Yasmani Grandal from the San Diego Padres in the trade that sent Matt Kemp away, which suggested the team was moving on from Ellis. However, the Dodgers tendered him a contract and the two sides later avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal.
As the season began, the two catchers routinely split time behind the plate with Grandal starting most of the time. Grandal struggled with the bat early on but has turned things around since. His batting average was a mere .189 in April, but in May, he’s hitting a blistering .447 and has 14 RBIs.
Grandal’s improved hitting has earned him more playing time at the expense of Ellis. Despite the decreased action, Ellis understands his fellow backstop’s importance in the lineup, via Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:
This is a guy who’s swinging the bat as well as anybody in the National League right now,” he said. “He certainly helped carry us through this road trip. We need his bat in the middle of the lineup, his versatility as a switch hitter.”
Ellis also hinted at some difficult in adjusting to his new role, while also maintaining his primary focus is the team’s success:
It’s definitely a transition,” Ellis said. “You’re just trying to figure out a routine and how you’re going to fit on this team to do the No. 1 thing, that’s win games.”
While many players can get discouraged by not playing, Ellis has not. He’s remained professional even becoming a mentor to Grandal according to manager Don Mattingly. In addition, Ellis is still involved in game planning and meetings with the pitching staff.
Eliis started in Saturday’s 7-1 loss to the Rockies and went 0-for-3 at the plate with a strikeout. He’s batting .125/.200/.156 in 36 plate appearances over 10 games this season.