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Don't expect Dodgers to trade for catching help

Bako Now the question becomes: Do the Dodgers need to trade or sign another catcher to get through Russell Martin’s groin injury?

The injury is expected to keep Martin out four to six weeks. If it turns out to be six, it means he misses the first two weeks of the season.

If that’s the length of his absence, making a trade seems unlikely and unwise. You don’t give up a young player to plug a two-week hole.

And, really, there is no catcher of significance left who’s a free agent. The only free-agent catcher of any renown is Paul Bako, and the Dodgers have already had that experience. He was a backup to Dioner Navarro in 2005.

Bako is good behind the plate but doesn’t bring much offensively, which sounds a lot like A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers minor-league catcher now slated to be their primary catcher until Martin returns.

"His ability to catch and throw and run a staff we feel is close, if not at, major-league caliber right now," Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti told reporters in Phoenix.

"He’ll have an opportunity, and that’s what careers are sometimes made from."
Ellis has been in the organization for seven years and will turn 29 the first week of the season. He’s had three major-league starts. Still, the Dodgers seem comfortable with what he brings to the position, at least in the short run.

Colletti told Ken Gurnick at that he’s not thinking about making a trade to acquire Martin’s replacement.

"I'm not out right now looking for a catcher who can start for the Dodgers," Colletti said. "If Russell is going to be out for the entire season, it'd be something we'd think about, but not if it's going to be maybe two weeks into the season that he'll miss."

Martin said he did not think the extra 25 pounds he gained over the offseason contributed to his injury. Colletti didn’t blame it on the added weight either, though he didn’t seem enthused about it.

"The way he came into camp, we can’t tell anybody what’s best for them," Colletti said. "They have to decide that on their own.

"Obviously he decided coming in the condition he did was best for him. We had communications with him throughout the winter, and then it went cold for a little bit of time. But he knew what’s at stake."

-- Steve Dilbeck

Photo: Colorado's Aaron Miles, left, slides safely across home plate before Dodgers catcher Paul Bako can apply the tag during a game in 2005. Credit: Brian Bahr / Getty Images

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The things that worries me about Martin is that he is going from this to that, always a new big idea. What's next?

Speaking of insurance on ballplayers, Steve what can you tell fans about its mechanics?

Let's say Martin is out 6 weeks. Does it pay his salary, or part of it? When does it kick in? What are the premiums for each million dollars of ballplayer salary? Deductibles?

I think this is a major topic, informing baseball economics as well as player management. Why is it so underreported?

"The way he came into camp, we can’t tell anybody what’s best for them," Colletti said. "They have to decide that on their own."

And that's the consistent view of MLB. Which is very different from the NFL. An NFL team has a strength and conditioning coach, who works with each individual player to develop a weight, strength, and conditioning plan, off-season or on. I just find it very odd that a baseball team's front office and coaching staff consider themselves little more interested bystanders in their own players' physical development, off-season or on. It's completely counter-intuitive.


It is highly unlikely that the Dodgers have insurance on Martin's contract. The premiums have gotten so high and the restrictions so great that a cost-benefit analysis would almost certainly compel the Dodgers to forego any insurance. By and large, baseball policies are reserved for players on the most expensive long-term contracts.

That said, it is unlikely that a six-week injury would result in any payment.

A little bit about our new catcher:

Ellis earned All-Ohio Valley Conference first-team honors all four seasons while at Austin Peay University, only the fifth player in league history to accomplish that feat. He finished his college career with a .351 batting average, and ranks as Austin Peay’s all-time leader with 263 hits.

Ellis was selected by the Dodgers in the 18th round of the 2003 MLB Draft. He has played in the minors with the South Georgia Waves, Vero Beach Dodgers, Double-A Jacksonville Suns, and Triple-A Las Vegas 51s. On September 5, 2008, his contract was purchased by the Dodgers, and he made his debut on September 15.

On September 26, 2008, Ellis made his first appearance in a major league game when he pinch ran for Nomar Garciaparra in the 9th inning in a game against the San Francisco Giants. He then scored his first major league run when he was part of a two-run home run by the Dodgers’ every day catcher Russell Martin

In 2009, Ellis began the season as the starting catcher for the AAA Albuquerque Isotopes under the tutelage of journeyman veteran Danny Ardoin. He spent most of the season with the Isotopes and was called up to the Dodgers in September. He recorded his first Major League hit and RBI with a single in the final game of the season, on October 4, 2009 against the Colorado Rockies.

A.J. Ellis hit safely in 15 of his last 16 games at AAA, batting .377 (20-for-53) with eight doubles and nine RBI…

The 28-year-old is batting .358 (24-for-67) with eight doubles and 13 RBI in 21 August games…he is hitting .338 (27-for-80) with runners in scoring position…overall, he is batting .314 with 13 doubles and 37 RBI in 86 games…

Not exactly chopped liver, even if he did do this at Albertquacky…

Any insurance money recovered for Martin's injury wouldn't help the club's payroll. It just would have been used to pay the lawyers in the McCourts' divorce proceedings. :-(

Maybe the Dodgers can contact the Rockies to see if Paul LoDuca is available. LoDuca, along with Manny and Eric Gagne, could help the Blue Crew maintain their team's squeaky clean image.

Rick, well said. Martin keeps trying this, trying that, changing mechanics, changing diet and training... but the one thing he needs to get back, consistency behind the plate, won't be obtained by fiddling.

Am I crazy in thinking he did better under Grady Little's guidance? No knock on Torre or Martin, but Russ came up with Little as manager, seemed to thrive under his approach, and seemed unsure when Torre got here. Then again, Torre and he have formed their own rapport. I might as well be reading sheep entrails to figure out what happened to our five-tool all-star catcher.
I keep hoping we'll get him back. I know we can't wait forever.

Is Danny Ardoin still in the organization? Even if he has become a coach, maybe he can make a comeback if necessary. He did fairly well a couple of years ago.

True to his word of sparing no expense to to make the Dodgers a champion, and not willing to have the club be severely disadvantaged by Russell Martin's injury,
McCourt apparently has instructed Colletti to offer a minor league contract to
Yogi Berra.


New Dodger pitcher Luis Ayala can double as a catcher.
Heck he can catch his own pitch if need be.

Two words: Duke Sims

Year after year the Dodgers over rate Russell Martin. It's getting really old. He can't hit for power, he can't hit in the clutch, and he can't throw out base runners. Don't know why they put so much stock in him. A very likable guy, but a very ordinary catcher.

A.J.Ellis is more than capable to play in the majors. In the box his prorated numbers will be better than Martin's were last year. Saw him play AAA in reno last summer and not only did he reach safely every single time against 3 major league pitchers, he went deep into every single count working walks twice. He has a strong accurate arm and nothing gets by him behind the dish. Only question mark is how he calls the game for major league staff, and he's got all spring with Ausmus to figure that out. Would love to see a true platoon with Ausmus breaking down lefties.


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