Twice last season Clayton Kershaw publicly advocated for teammate and friend A.J. Ellis to be brought back by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The second time came after the Dodgers were eliminated in the postseason by the St. Louis Cardinals and they began an offseason filled with uncertainty.
Ellis was one of several players who were eligible for arbitration and was coming off a year in which he largely struggled — both in terms of production and health — with the latter negatively affecting the former.
However, Ellis was also one of the few players who managed to swing the bat well during the National League Division Series, hitting .538/.647/.846 with one home run, one double, two RBIs and drawing four walks. While the Dodgers tendered and ultimately re-signed him, the trade for Yasmani Grandal figured to bring an end to Ellis’ tenure as the club’s full-time backstop.
Four games into the 2015 season and Grandal has three starts under his belt, compared to Ellis’ one. The elder catcher’s first start came on Opening Day with Kershaw on the mound and his next time behind the plate? You guessed it, Saturday when Kershaw starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
Ellis will catch Kershaw tomorrow.
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) April 10, 2015
It’s not much of a surprise to see Ellis’ two starts coincide with games where Kershaw was on the bump. While the reigning NL MVP worked with Grandal in Spring Training and praised him after their last start together, the level of comfort doesn’t match what’s been established with Ellis.
That’s certainly not to fault Grandal, who’s in his first season with the Dodgers. After all, Zack Greinke couldn’t say enough about the 26 year old after they formed the battery Tuesday. Ellis’ start can also be linked to Grandal needing a day of rest after playing in three straight games.
While manager Don Mattingly has repeatedly voiced his opinion against using a personal catcher system, he’s yet to prove otherwise with the lineups used this season.
Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly Discusses Catching Situation