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Dodgers' A.J. Ellis stays focused on catching despite hitting woes

Although his batting average has dropped lately, Ellis says his main concern is calling a good game for the Dodgers pitchers.

September 08, 2013|By Kevin Baxter
  • Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis connects for a single in the fifth inning against the Reds on Sunday at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis connects for a single in the fifth inning against… (Jamie Sabau / Getty Images )

CINCINNATI -- A.J. Ellis caught 131 games last year, 26 more than in any of his previous seasons in the major or minor leagues.

By the end of the year that workload had, well, caught up with Ellis, who needed off-season knee surgery. And though he finished hitting a solid .270 with a career-best 13 home runs, his average fell 33 points after the All-Star game.

Ellis said he learned from his second-half struggles last season, when he would often take the game home with him.

"At the end of the day, you have to separate," he said. "When I leave here, it's time to be a husband and a dad."

But that strategy hasn't paid off at the plate where Ellis, despite going four for seven in his last two games is hitting .198 since Aug. 1. And he has only three runs batted in since Aug. 13.

Part of the reason for that could be the demands of guiding the Dodgers pitching staff. On Sunday, for example, while teammates played dominoes and watched football on the clubhouse TV, Ellis sat behind a video monitor studying the Cincinnati Reds hitters, part of a pregame ritual that can take as long as 11/2 hours.

That preparation has paid off behind the plate, where his catcher's earned-run average of 3.10 before Sunday was the lowest in the majors. And only Pittsburgh's Russell Martin has thrown out a higher percentage of would-be stealers

"It's my responsibility to the pitching staff to make sure I'm ready. When I'm back there calling pitches for these guys, that they have got confidence in whatever finger I put down," Ellis said. "That I put it down there for a reason, I'm not just guessing.

"I can't let these guys down. My No. 1 job is more than anything I do offensively."

No disrespect intended

As he was being mobbed by teammates Saturday after his game-winning single against Brian Wilson, Reds infielder Todd Frazier made a crossed forearms gesture similar to one Wilson uses to celebrate a victory. Frazier said Sunday the sign wasn't directed at the Dodgers reliever but is something he and teammate Xavier Paul have adopted.

"I wasn't mocking anybody. That's the last thing I would do," said Frazier, who added that he would seek out Wilson to explain the gesture.

Wilson, however, refused to even acknowledge a question about the incident, storming away from his locker.

Hyun-Jin Ryu is set to go

Left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu experienced no problems during a 40-pitch bullpen session, so he and Manager Don Mattingly said Ryu should be able to rejoin the rotation Wednesday against Arizona.

Ryu, who leads National League rookies with 13 victories and 167 innings, was scratched from a start last week because of a sore back.

It was a late night

The scheduled start time of Sunday's game was pushed back seven hours to accommodate ESPN, meaning most of the Dodgers weren't expected to get home until just before dawn Monday, or about 14 hours before the start of their seven-game homestand.

"You'd rather get home at a decent hour but that's just the way it is," Mattingly said. "Complaining about it is not going to do us any good.

"After the game it's going to be you won or you lost. Nobody's going to go, 'Oh they came off a long travel night.' It's going to be an L or a W."

Twitter: @kbaxter11

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