Tag: A.J. Ellis

A.J. Ellis to Marlins: Latest Contract Details, Comments, Reaction

Veteran catcher A.J. Ellis is off to Florida as he signed a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney.   

Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball later confirmed Olney’s report. 

Ellis spent eight-plus season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, mostly as a reserve catcher and pinch hitter but also as a team leader and confidant for ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

But in August of the 2016 season, he was dealt to the Philadelphia Phillies for veteran catcher Carlos Ruiz, who had spent 11 seasons in the city of brotherly love. 

While Ellis only batted .194 with the Dodgers last season, his loss was tough to take, per Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times:

But with free agency looming this winter, his production would have made it questionable for the Dodgers to bring him back in 2017, especially if he were looking for the same kind of money while he was playing under a one-year, $4.5 million deal, per Spotrac

In 11 games with the Phillies to end the 2016 season, Ellis batted .313 with a home run and nine RBI on a team that is still in the process of rebuilding toward contending in the National League East. 

Now with his third different team in two years, Ellis is expected to come off the bench behind J.T. Realmuto. 

The 25-year-old enjoyed a breakout season in 2016, batting .303 with 11 home runs, 12 doubles, 48 RBI and a surprising 13 stolen bases. 

His defensive stats were just as solid, as he ranked first among all catchers in assists and tied for fourth with 28 caught potential base stealers.

Realmuto, though, will be working with some new names in the pitching staff as the Marlins brought on Edinson Volquez at the end of November as well as signing starter Jeff Locke on Wednesday, per Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal

While Ellis won’t provide much on offense, as a veteran presence, he can help Realmuto get accustomed to a new-look rotation and provide much-needed relief when the developing star is in need of a day off. 


Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com

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Scott Miller’s Starting 9: Camp Openings Bring Best, Worst of Weighty Issues

Sunblock, infield dust and…scorpions? Pitchers and catchers have barely unpacked, and we’ve already got the best and the worst of camp openings.


1. Best Use of Weights

It ain’t the heavyweight division it once was, but with Yankees ace CC Sabathia making it a point to add weight for 2015 and early photos of Boston’s Pablo Sandoval already sending him into a defensive crouch, it does make you wonder whether the AL East will need to hold weekly weigh-ins.

Sabathia told reporters in Tampa that he thinks he came in a little too light last spring, and before you start your calorie counting, allow, for just a pinstriped moment, that Sabathia may be onto something.

The late Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett didn’t exactly have a model figure, nor did old Detroit starter Mickey Lolich, who threw 300-plus innings over four consecutive seasons from 1971-74.

No telling whether Sabathia will follow in Lolich‘s footsteps and open a doughnut shop after he retires (no joke, Lolich did), but the big lefty did pitch at a Cy Young level for many years without limitations, weight or otherwise.

The 6’7″ Sabathia says he’s planning to pitch between 295 and 305 pounds this season after checking into spring camp last year at 275. He thinks that his significant weight loss before the 2013 season resulted in a so-so summer: 14-13, 4.78 ERA.

So far this spring, he’s checked out fine following right knee surgery last season. The knee will bear watching, of course, because a heavier Sabathia means more wear and tear on the legs.

As for Sandoval, a tweeted picture raised his ire during his first few hours with the Red Sox. It was unflattering, with his belly sticking out.

Panda’s response was to quickly challenge the tweeting reporter to work out with him. His best response, though, is to ignore it. As late Baltimore manager Earl Weaver, a Hall of Famer, once said about Boog Powell (and recounted here in this excellent Dan Shaughnessy column in The Boston Globe), “He don’t look fat to me when he’s running around the bases after hitting those homers.”

Look, not all sluggers fit the mold. Sometimes, in the cases of Jell-O, they’ll eat the mold. So what? As long as they can hit.

Why do you think they call the weighted rings placed on bats in the on-deck circle doughnuts anyway?

(And see, we got through all that without any reference to Alex Rodriguez being dead weight in Yankees camp).


2. Best Updated Reference to U.S. Steel

No-nonsense Yankees manager Joe Girardi quickly brushed off the expected spring circus around A-Rod, basically saying that it’s always a circus around the Yankees. Or, as former reliever Sparky Lyle famously called it, it’s a Bronx Zoo.

“One of the things I learned in 1996 when I came here is that this is a different place,” Girardi told reporters. “It’s different when you put on a New York Yankee uniform.

“You’re on one of the most recognizable companies in the world.”

So if rooting for the Yankees, as Red Smith, Jimmy Cannon, Bill Veeck and whomever else said, once was “like rooting for U.S. Steel,” what’s the modern equivalent?

We’ll go with this, while taking requests, for now: Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Apple.


3. Best Dodge

Whew, what a media session for Cole Hamels on Saturday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Florida. The Phillies ace did everything but go all Bill Clinton and say that his desire to stay in Philadelphia or to be traded “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

He says he wants to win, and he told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that “I know it’s not going to happen here.”

He’s right.

Except, now Hamels is in the uncomfortable situation of basically preparing for the season in a clubhouse surrounded by teammates who know Hamels doesn’t think they can win. And when he addressed the media, several Phillies officials, including club president David Montgomery, were in the room. So what is an ace lefty still owed $90 million to do?

“At this given moment, I’m a Phillie,” Hamels said carefully.

For how long, it’s difficult to say. The Red Sox have the prospects to deal for him, and who knows, Monday’s signing of Yoan Moncada may send them even more aggressively toward the Phillies.

One team that was interested over the winter, San Diego, is out. When the Padres signed free agent James Shields, sources tell Bleacher Report that effectively ended their pursuit of Hamels, a San Diego native.


4. Best Quote

The Dodgers acquired Yasmani Grandal from the Padres in the Matt Kemp deal over the winter, and largely because of his stick, Grandal is expected to eat into A.J. Ellis’ playing time behind the plate.

Ellis’ take?

“You know, in all honesty, I don’t need a title of starting catcher or a title of backup catcher,” Ellis told reporters. “I want to have the title of World Series champion catcher.”


5. Best Sight in Arizona

Easy: San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy back in uniform Sunday following a procedure to have two stents placed in his heart.

These spring training physical exams not only are wake-up calls, sometimes, for the players and managers themselves, but they also can be lessons to all of us. You see how a visit to the doctor might have saved Bochy‘s life. It is a good example to all of us that we should regularly see the doctor.

So, the man who employs one of the most delightful expressions in the game, “buzzard’s luck,” when the breaks don’t go the Giants’ way, starts 2015 with some excellent good fortune.

And his sense of humor wasn’t harmed, either. He promises, “I’ve got another 200,000 miles on me,” and he described his condition as not being “a widow-maker.”


6. Best Sight in Florida

Matt Harvey back in a New York Mets uniform and actually, you know, pitching from a mound.

He left us far too soon, for Tommy John surgery, not long after starting for the National League in the 2013 All-Star Game at Citi Field. He went 9-5 with a 2.27 ERA in 26 starts in ’13, then the elbow blew.

Between him and the Marlins’ Jose Fernandez blowing out last May, the game lost two sensational young starting pitchers. Now, at least, Harvey should be back. The Mets are talking about him pitching between 180 and 200 innings this summer, including beginning in their Opening Day rotation.

What a treat that would be for all of us. But especially for Mets fans, whose team is very close to blowing past the Yankees as the best club in town.


 7. Worst Development

Josh Hamilton could be out a month longer than expected following surgery to repair his right shoulder, and now it’s fair to wonder whether the five-year, $125 million deal the Angels bestowed on him will wind up being one of the worst of all time.

He’s 33, and in his final season in Texas (2012), he hit more home runs (43) than he has in his first two seasons combined in Anaheim (31). Battling the sore shoulder, he looked badly overmatched last September and in October, as the Angels were getting swept out of the playoffs by the Royals. (He was 0-for-13 with two strikeouts, and most of his swings were painful to watch.)

As of now, he likely won’t be back until at least May. And because he’s rehabbing at home in Texas, the Angels don’t even have a locker for him this spring.


8. Worst Spring Visitors

Did you hear the one about the scorpions in the White Sox camp?

It’s reminiscent of the time an alligator decided to visit the pool at the Detroit Tigers’ team hotel in Lakeland, Florida, back in the 1970s—or the time Torii Hunter “kissed” one there last March.

Not sure which is worse, but I may take the alligator before the scorpions.


9. Best Use of Time

The new Pace of Game rules, which I wrote about Friday, are sensible and, best of all, unobtrusive. Batters should be required to stay in the box during an at-bat. Pitchers and hitters absolutely, positively should be ready to go the moment the between-innings commercials are finished. If we’ve already waited more than two minutes for the commercial break, why wait another 30 to 60 seconds while players aren’t ready?

Maybe these changes will not shorten games significantly, but I’m not sure anybody is looking for that. Just tighten things up and remove some of the dead time. Play ball.


9(a). Best Backstage Visitor

At a concert earlier this month in Tampa, whom did Bob Seger see backstage but…Hall of Famer Al Kaline.

Kaline has a winter place in Lakeland, about 40 minutes east of Tampa, and the two Michiganders obviously share a connection. Seger told the crowd in Tampa how happy he was to see the Tigers’ Hall of Famer.

This reminded me of one of my favorite baseball stories involving Seger.

In the late 1960s, Ted Simmons was looking to get home to his family for a weekend with his then-girlfriend from the University of Michigan.

This being the ’60s, they did what lots of other folks did: hitchhiked.

Simmons was a first-round pick—10th overall—by the Cardinals in 1967, and he was working toward his degree during the offseasons. As Simmons told me two springs ago, it was November or December, it was cold, and snow flurries were making conditions even worse.

As Ted and Maryanne (now his wife) hitchhiked out of Ann Arbor alongside U.S. 23 North, a van pulled over to pick them up.

After Ted helped Maryanne into the front seat, he hopped into the back.

“I get in, all the seats had been removed, and there was a full drum set in the back,” Simmons told me.

As they drove away, Simmons thanked the driver profusely for picking them up.

“Where ya goin‘?” the driver asked.

“Detroit,” Simmons answered.

The van was headed toward Interstate 96, where Ted and Maryanne wanted to go, but the driver explained that he was heading west toward Lansing instead of east toward Detroit.

“He said, ‘I’ll drop you, and you can pick up another ride from there,'” Simmons said.

Simmons noted the drum set and asked whether the driver was a musician.

“What’s your name?” Simmons asked.

“Bob Seger,” came the response.

“I remember it like it was bigger than life,” Simmons told me. “He was just starting out back then.”

A local legend in the ’60s, Seger was known for playing hundreds of nights a year throughout Michigan and the Midwest. Then came 1976, when the release of Live Bullet in April and Night Moves in October catapulted him to superstardom.

As Simmons recalled, Seger had played the famous Canterbury House in Ann Arbor that evening and had another date scheduled in Lansing.

“He wasn’t huge yet,” Simmons said. “Then he got huge. It was just super for anybody to stop.

“He could have been a serial killer.”

Instead, he soon would be singing “Night Moves,” “Against the Wind” and many other beloved hits.

Simmons? Today, he’s a senior advisor to Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik. And when his playing days were finished, Simmons, a physical education and speech major, went back and earned his degree from Michigan in 1996.


Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report. He has over two decades of experience covering MLB, including 14 years as a national baseball columnist at CBSSports.com.

Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball @ScottMillerBbl. 

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Handicapping the Dodgers’ Hotly Contested Spring Training Position Battles

February is here, which means spring training is just around the corner for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the rest of Major League Baseball.

The Boys in Blue made waves this offseason with their flurry of moves at the winter meetings, trading away key players from last season’s team that took home the National League West division title.

It remains to be seen whether this year’s roster incarnation is superior, but most of the players on the 2015 Dodgers know their role heading into the new season. The starting rotation is set, along with the closer and infield.

Two positions that are still up for grabs, however, are catcher and center field.



There were definite concerns within the organization following the struggles of A.J. Ellis last season. The Dodgers’ incumbent backstop batted just .191 in 93 games as he battled through knee and ankle injuries.

But although his performance at the plate suffered, the new front office led by President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and general manager Farhan Zaidi realized his value in other areas of the game—namely his relationship with the pitching staff.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do if he’s not back,” Clayton Kershaw told reporters following the Dodgers’ season-ending loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series last October, per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. “I think we’d be losing a lot if we let him go.”

It’s why the Dodgers ultimately decided to avoid arbitration with Ellis and brought him back on a one-year, $4.25 million deal, per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

“That’s been a part of our process, understanding the dynamics and the relationships and it’s clear he’s a big part of this team and a big part of the preparation and comfort level for the pitchers,” Zaidi told Hernandez.

The Dodgers still made sure to proceed with a Plan B just in case Ellis falters for a second straight year. Los Angeles acquired switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal from the San Diego Padres in the blockbuster deal that sent fan favorite and franchise cornerstone Matt Kemp out of town.

The former 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft will be tasked with living up to some lofty expectations in the eyes of most Dodgers fans simply because of who the team traded away in order to get him.

Grandal has batted just .224 since testing positive for testosterone in November 2012. His return to the field in 2013 was cut short by a season-ending knee injury, but he did hit 15 home runs while playing half of his games in spacious Petco Park last year.

What’s more, Grandal batted .328 in 19 games in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, according to J.P. Hoornstra of InsideSocal.com.

Grandal recently described his knee as being “110 percent” improved compared to a year ago, per Hoornstra.

“It’s the reason I went to the Dominican Republic to make sure I was right,” said Grandal. “I think I showed I was right and that’s why so many teams started calling in afterwards.”

Ellis will likely be Kerhaw’s personal catcher because of their close relationship on and off the field, while Grandal undoubtedly offers more pop in the lineup along with a fine .350 career on-base percentage and elite pitch-framing ability.

According to Hoornstra, manager Don Mattingly held a meeting with both of his catchers but has yet to determine an arrangement for their playing time in 2015.

“A.J. couldn’t put it any better: Whatever it takes to win,” said Grandal, per Hoornstra. “If that day A.J. is the man for the job behind the plate and we are going to get a win with A.J. behind the plate, that’s going to be him. At the end of the day, if we get a win, that’s a team win and we all get a ring.”

Look for Mattingly to form a platoon based on matchups when it comes to his catcher on any given night.


Center Field

The battle to become the starting center fielder for the Dodgers this season will come down to a seasoned veteran and a highly touted prospect.

It’s going to be to Andre Ethier vs. Joc Pederson.

Ethier was the odd man out last season, an unlucky victim of the team’s outfield logjam. The eight-year veteran was banished to the bench in favor of Carl Crawford, who solidified himself as the everyday left fielder. Yasiel Puig patrolled center and Kemp played right.

With Kemp now out of the picture, the Dodgers plan to move Puig back to his natural position in right field, where the team can utilize his strong throwing arm to its maximum potential. Crawford will be back in left field, which means center field is wide open, and Ethier expects to reclaim a starting role, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times.

It was fun trying to win the way we did last year, but it didn’t prove any more successful than me playing every day or not playing every day. I’d rather play every day and help this team win — or whatever team it is — to the best of my ability. I feel I can, if given a role. As I stand here today, I’m preparing every day to be a starting outfielder for the Dodgers, until I’m told otherwise. I’m not changing my mind about that. It’s probably going to be a little less wanting to take the same role as I did last year.

The problem that Mattingly has with simply handing Ethier back his starting gig is multifaceted.

First of all, Ethier is coming off the worst season of his career, one that saw him bat .249 with just four home runs and 42 RBI in 341 at-bats.

“You put up the numbers, you play. It’s pretty simple,” Mattingly said, per Eric Stephen of True Blue LA. “You perform, you compete, and if you win the job, you’re playing.”

Ethier clearly didn’t put up numbers worthy of everyday playing time a season ago. The argument can be made that he never was able to establish a rhythm at the plate with such sporadic at-bats, but maybe he is simply beginning his inevitable decline as a serviceable major league player. Ethier will turn 33 in April.

It’s a legitimate concern for Mattingly and the Dodgers, who must also accommodate the rise of Pederson, their top outfield prospect.

Pederson slashed .303/.435/.582 with 135 hits and 78 RBI in 121 games at Triple-A before his September call-up last season. He became the Pacific Coast League’s first player since 1934 to hit at least 30 home runs and steal 30 bases in the same season, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com.

Mattingly considers Pederson the “best defensive center fielder” on the Dodgers, per Dilbeck, and the rookie will have an opportunity to earn an everyday job at the position during spring training.

Friedman and Zaidi agree with this plan.

“I think we’ll take some time in spring training and assess that, get a feel for him in camp and how he’s handling things,” Friedman told Dilbeck. “It’ll be a discussion we’ll have with the staff and I’m sure it will be an ongoing discussion between now through the last game in March.”

If Pederson holds his own during spring training, which will comprise of more than the 39 plate appearances he made with the big club last September, the Dodgers will likely begin the season with the 22-year-old as their starting center fielder.

Ethier will presumably be unhappy starting the season on the bench yet again, but it will be difficult for Los Angeles to trade him without eating a significant portion of the $56 million he is owed through 2018. Moreover, the team may view Ethier as an above-average insurance policy in case the injury-prone Crawford feels a twinge somewhere along the way.

“I think Joc should have the opportunity to compete for the position. I don’t think we should hand anything over,” Mattingly said, per Stephen. “It’s a spot where there will be competition.”


All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise linked/noted.

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A.J. Ellis, Dodgers Agree on New Contract: Latest Details, Comments, Reaction

The Los Angeles Dodgers and catcher A.J. Ellis avoided salary arbitration Tuesday, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $4.25 million for the 2015 season.

Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the news:

The deal comes three days before the deadline for teams and their players to negotiate a common ground. Had Ellis and the Dodgers not settled, an independent arbitrator would have decided his salary next month. 

Ellis, 33, hit .191/.323/.254 with three home runs and 25 RBI last season, his seventh with the major league roster. Those offensive numbers left the Dodgers in a bit of a conundrum, as they’d come to rely on his defensive presence but were understandably concerned with keeping him in the lineup. While never an elite offensive player, 2014 represented a stark downturn from the 2012 and 2013 campaigns, where Ellis was at the very least a replacement-level offensive talent.

The Dodgers hold Ellis’ rights through the end of the 2016 season. It’ll be interesting to see how much playing time Ellis gets in 2015, though, considering the arrival of Yasmani Grandal. The highly touted catcher was among the chief acquisitions Los Angeles made in its trade of outfielder Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres. Grandal projects as a far more dynamic offensive player but will have to work hard to gain trust from the likes of Clayton Kershaw.

Over the last three seasons, Ellis and Kershaw have become a nearly unstoppable pitcher-catcher force. According to his numbers on FanGraphs, Ellis struggles in the art of pitch framing—the advanced metric currently shaking up advanced catching rankings—but Kershaw’s trust in his teammate is unmatched.

“I think we’d be losing a lot if we let him go,” Kershaw told Dylan Hernandez of The Los Angeles Times. “I know A.J. will land on his feet, but we need him here a lot. … Just the tireless work that he does, it’s so selfless. It’s invaluable to know that what he’s putting down, there’s so much thought, so much work behind it. It gives me confidence to throw it.”

Ellis has produced a positive defensive rating, per FanGraphs, in each of his major league seasons. While his advanced age and declining offensive skill set may cost him playing time going forward, the Dodgers keeping him around for another season gives them a solid all-around platoon. Ellis is also quite the insurance plan if Grandal and Kershaw (or other pitchers on the staff) can’t get on the same page.


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Dodgers Catcher A.J. Ellis Drove Down Highway at 75 MPH as Wife Gave Birth

A.J. Ellis’ wife, Cindy, deserves a standing ovation, because she managed to give birth in car as she and her husband tried to get to the hospital. 

Call it horrible timing or a baby who couldn’t wait to be born, but the Ellis clan welcomed its third child on a Milwaukee highway as the Dodgers catcher sped down the road at 75 miles per hour. 

The 31-year-old catcher told his remarkable tale to ESPN The Magazine‘s Molly Knight, recounting quite the interesting delivery method. 

It seems Cindy has a favorite doctor, who was about 30 miles away from the couple’s Milwaukee home. The two also had to wait for Cindy’s sister to get to the house to take care of their other children, daughter Ainsley, 4, and son Luke, 2. 

While Ellis was away during the birth of his first two children, he would not be absent during any part of his third child’s welcoming into the world. 

The couple were ready to go at about 7:25 a.m., but Cindy’s contractions were about 45 seconds apart—not that A.J. was all that worried:

And I’m thinking, this is 2012, not the ‘Oregon Trail.’ Of course we’re gonna make it. So I’m calmly telling her we’re making it. I figured she was just panicking because she was in excruciating pain.

As A.J. drove down Interstate 43 at speeds he estimated at 75 miles per hour, his wife lay in the reclined front passenger seat in extreme pain. 

About 18 miles from the hospital, Cindy said she could feel their child’s head.

A very eager Audrey Elizabeth Ellis was born about a minute later. At that time, Cindy swaddled her newborn in a jacket and the usually calm and collected A.J. freaked out.

“Cindy went into instant mom mode, totally calm and wrapping Audrey in her jacket,” Ellis said. “Meanwhile I’m panicking and screaming. Cindy was the absolute hero.”

All three arrived at the hospital, where mom and baby girl were sent to recovery, both reportedly in excellent health. 

The offseason, it seems, can be far more surprising and wonderful than you would think. 


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