Over the last few seasons it’s been no secret how much Clayton Kershaw values having teammate and close friend A.J. Ellis behind the plate. Where as Kershaw entered the offseason with a minimum of four more years remaining on his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Ellis’ future with the team was far less certain.
The 33-year-old catcher was limited by two injuries last season and as a result, largely struggled. He hit .191/.323/.254 in 93 games (347 plate appearances) and threw out just 25 percent of basestealers. Nonetheless, Kershaw strongly advocated for Ellis to return in 2015, which came to fruition when Ellis signed a one-year deal to avoid arbitration.
While Ellis enters another season with the Dodgers, what lies ahead is somewhat of an unknown when taking into account the addition of Yasmani Grandal, who excels in pitch framing. When asked if Ellis needs to be his personal catcher, Kershaw declined to answer and deflected the question to manager Don Mattingly, via Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times:
I don’t know,” Kershaw said. “That’s Donnie’s call. I love throwing to A.J. Obviously, I’ve had some success doing that.”
Kershaw added to his response by praising his former battery mates and Grandal:
I’ve had a lot of different guys come through here,” Kershaw said. “I’ve had a lot of good ones, from Russell [Martin] starting out to Rod [Barajas] and Dioner Navarro, and A.J. for a long time now. He comes with a great reputation, Grandal does, of being able to catch the ball and block the ball and stuff. It should be good.”
Mattingly is on record as saying he doesn’t support utilizing a personal catcher and that he wasn’t sure how the duties behind the plate would be split. Grandal played in 128 games for the San Diego Padres last season and is confident he’s fully recovered from a 2013 knee injury.
While Ellis struggled during the regular season, he was one of the few Dodgers who hit well once the postseason began. In four games against the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division series, Ellis hit .538/.647/.846. For their part, both Ellis and Grandal have downplayed the situation with each placing more of an importance on the team’s success.
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