For much of the last three seasons, A.J. Ellis has handled the catching duties for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Considering that’s entailed Ellis being behind the plate for at least 93 games each season since 2012, he’s formed a strong bond with the starting rotation, particularly Clayton Kershaw.
Ellis played last season on a one-year deal, was limited due to two injuries and was at risk of becoming a free agent if the Dodgers opted to non-tender him. Shortly after the Dodgers were eliminated from postseason play, Kershaw let it be known his desire was for the Dodgers to re-sign his battery mate, which was completed Tuesday when the Dodgers and Ellis agreed to a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration.
With Ellis re-signed and Yasmani Grandal in the picture, the Dodgers figure to deploy a platoon behind the plate next season — something general manager Farhan Zaidi believes in utilizing. While it’s been widely presumed Ellis would primarily serve as the catcher for Kershaw, that in fact may not be a given.
Manager Don Mattingly spoke to a group of local reporters on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium and seemingly shot down the idea that Ellis would be Kershaw’s personal catcher, according to Dodger Talk co-host David Vassegh:
Mattingly doesn't favor having a "personal catcher" for any pitcher. asked if Grandal will catch Kershaw "Obviously" was his response.
— David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) January 14, 2015
Aside from being seven years younger than Ellis, Grandal grades out more favorably in terms of pitch framing, which Kershaw and the entire Dodgers pitching staff would benefit from. However, the relationship between a pitcher and catcher isn’t something to be glossed over.
Not one to tip his hand, Mattingly’s comments may be another case of him being coy with the media and leaving open the possibility for games in which Grandal will catch Kershaw.