Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis welcomes adding Yasmani Grandal
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) A starting catcher for three straight seasons, A.J. Ellis said he’s glad the Los Angeles Dodgers added Yasmani Grandal, even though he plays the same position.
”It’s good,” Ellis said. ”In all honesty, I don’t need a title as a starting catcher, or backup catcher. I just want to be a World Series-winning catcher.”
When the Dodgers acquired Grandal on Dec. 18 from San Diego in exchange for Matt Kemp, Tim Federowicz and two pitching prospects, there were questions about who would be their everyday catcher.
Ellis has developed an effective relationship with star left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who last year became the first NL pitcher to win the Cy Young and MVP awards since Bob Gibson since 1968.
”I do know Clayton and I have worked well together,” Ellis said. ”It’s been a career highlight for me.”
There’s nobody Kershaw would rather see behind the plate.
”I love throwing to A.J.” said Kershaw, who threw to Ellis 30 times Friday in his first bullpen session at spring training. ”Obviously, I’ve had some success doing that.”
Kershaw was asked if Ellis might become his personal catcher.
”I can’t answer that,” Kershaw said.
The decision about who catches and who sits rests with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, who said the process will be determined by individual matchups.
”Bottom line, both of them talk about winning, so it’s not going to be a problem,” Mattingly said.
Grandal said he spoke to both Mattingly and Ellis during a meeting in Los Angeles a couple of weeks after the trade.
Grandal said he wasn’t told how he and Ellis would share the job. But he wasn’t worried.
”Whatever it takes to win” Grandal said. ”That’s what we talked about. At the end of the day, nothing else matters. If we win a ring, we’ll all have rings. In 20 years, I’d get to show off that ring and tell everybody that I won a World Series.”
In Grandal, the Dodgers acquired a 26-year-old catcher. Ellis will be 34 on April 9.
Grandal, a switch-hitter, played in 128 games last year, batting .225 and hitting 15 homers. He batted .297 with eight homers and 36 RBI in 2012, his first major league season, also with the Padres.
But a positive test for elevated testosterone led to a 50-game suspension in 2013, which ended with an injury to his right knee on July 16.
Early last season, Grandal was still coming back from the aftereffects of surgery, said Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers’ new president of baseball operations.
”Last year behind the plate was an outlier,” Friedman said. ”He came back from ACL surgery much faster than most people anticipated. You could see it in both halves of the season, both offensively and defensively.”
”If you don’t have your legs under you, you’re going to have a hard time as a catcher. In the second half, he got his legs under him, and he took off.”
Grandal, who spent the offseason playing winter league ball in the Dominican Republic, arrived at the Dodgers’ camp confident that his knee is healthy and certain he’ll encounter no problems in his shared role with Ellis.
Ellis is coming off a season that was complicated by injury. Surgery for a torn meniscus in his left knee and sprained right ankle limited him to 93 games. He struggled at the plate, batting only .191. He said he worked to strengthen his legs throughout the offseason.
”I just want to be ready for whatever happens,” Ellis said. ”I just want to help Grandal acclimate to the Dodgers. Competition? Not at all. I just want to celebrate this season.”
”If that means taking my mask off and running toward the mound or running onto the field from the dugout, I just want to celebrate,” he said.