Los Angeles Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis came into the 2015 season knowing he might have a significantly different role than previous years.
The team acquired catcher Yasmani Grandal in the offseason in the trade that sent Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Grandal was expected to be the new primary catcher, moving Ellis to a backup role he hasn’t occupied since 2011. It wasn’t completely unexpected though, as the veteran catcher was coming off his worst season as a full-time starter and the Dodgers were looking for improvement.
Ellis started the year worse than he was last season, hitting .137 with zero home runs and a .418 OPS in the first two months (18 games). His relationship with Clayton Kershaw, which Kershaw acknowledged in the offseason as a reason to keep Ellis, seemed like it might not be enough to keep him on the roster. The emergence of Austin Barnes also put some pressure on Ellis.
According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, the 34-year-old was just having trouble adjusting to his new role:
My bad habit is when I have free time, I tinker, tinker, tinker to make my swing the best I can,” said Ellis. “The problem with that is that I’m in between swings every time I go to the plate. I made the decision to make it simple, and I feel I really took off.”
Since June 1, Ellis is hitting .292 with four home runs and a .977 OPS in 23 games. That stretch came off a disabled list stint that put Ellis in the starting lineup more often. He was able to find his swing and has continued to produce despite the limited opportunities.
If Ellis can continue to put up similar numbers the rest of the season, the Dodgers won’t miss a beat at the plate on days Grandal sits.