Before the Los Angeles Dodgers would play their third game this season, they lost Clayton Kershaw to the disabled list with inflammation behind his left shoulder blade. Kershaw did pitch the team’s first regular season game in Australia March 22, but wouldn’t return until May 6.
A.J. Ellis fared slightly better than the ace of the pitching staff by managing to play in seven games before being placed on the DL with a torn meniscus in his left knee. Ellis returned May 14, played in eight games and was back on the DL after spraining his ankle during the celebration of Josh Beckett’s no-hitter.
Ellis returned to the Dodger lineup June 13 and has started all but one game since. In Monday’s win over the Colorado Rockies, the 33-year-old went 2-for3 including an RBI single to get his batting average to .222; only the second time this season it’s been above .200.
After the game, Ellis discussed what benefit may have come with being on the DL, via ESPN LA:
Maybe a lot of that time on the DL has been a blessing for me, to kind of mentally kind of figure out who I am and what my skill set should be as an offensive player.”
Ellis further added that though he was unable to run, he did spend ample time in the batting cages:
While I couldn’t run, I was still able to do a lot of work in the cage these last couple of weeks. I got back to swinging the way I know I’m supposed to swing and being the hitter I’ve been my whole career — a guy who works the count, takes a lot of pitches, uses the middle of the field and tries to be a really tough out.”
During his first stint on the DL, Ellis came to the realization that Beckett, who began the season 0-1 through six starts, would be better off relying on his breaking ball with more regularity. Beckett obliged and he’s been a reliable pitcher at the end of the rotation.
A career .254 hitter, much of what Ellis brings to the table is intangibles. He’s regarded as a tireless worker and having great command of the pitching staff. Ellis avoided arbitration in the off-season by signing a one-year deal and spoke of needing to play well in order to warrant a new deal as he’ll once again be eligible for arbitration this coming off-season.
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