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Here's the catch: Don Mattingly says starter behind the plate is an open competition

Had me at: Dodgers don't tender Russell Martin, sign Rod Barajas.

OK, guilty. Made an assumption, I guess. Me and just about everyone else.

Just assumed that meant the Dodgers were going with Barajas as their starting catcher. And then when they subsequently signed Dioner Navarro, he was brought in to battle A.J. Ellis for the backup role.

Yeah, well, update ... turns out there is competition, but Manager Don Mattingly said Wednesday it would primarily be between Barajas and Navarro for the starting spot.

Now, doesn't that just make the heart go all aflutter?

There are no great catching possibilities for the Dodgers, but it is kind of scary to think Navarro could be the answer to their dreams behind the plate.

Navarro has a reputation for laziness, and Tampa Bay was so done with him last season, they kept him off their playoff roster. They still wanted him with the team during the postseason in case of an emergency, but instead Navarro went home. Presumably in a huff.

Now he's going to get a chance to be the Dodgers' starting catcher?

"Seeing him play, this guy can hit," Mattingly said. "There's going to be a competition for me. We have two good catchers.

"We also have A.J. Ellis, who showed at the end of the year last year that he is solid. This guy can catch and throw. And he got better offensively."

Navarro could hit in 2008 (.295 hitting, .349 on-base, .407 slugging), but it's been downhill since.

The next season he was terrible (.218, .261, .322), and last year he spent two months back in the minors because he was even worse (.194, .270, .258).

Barajas got off to a terrific first week after the Dodgers claimed him from the Mets, and ended up hitting well (.297, .361, .578), plus had five home runs in his 64 at-bats.

He is, however, 35 years old and has only caught as many as 120 games a season twice during his 10 years in the major leagues. And although he's thrown out 32% of his base stealers during his career, it dropped to 15% last season.

There are a lot of unknowns behind the plate. Ellis came on the final month, batting .417, and was thought to be something of a Mattingly favorite. But he's demonstrated zero power, and, despite his major league inexperience, also turns 30 in April.

Mattingly said the competition behind the plate won't necessarily end during spring training.

"I think there's a competition over the course of the season," he said. "We'll see who does what. If we started the season today, I'm looking at Rod Barajas as the starting catcher."

With a team built around pitching, the catcher can't be some afterthought. And without a clear leader on the field, the position could loom more important than ever.

That's an assumption, of course, apparently a dangerous proposition around here.

-- Steve Dilbeck

Comments () | Archives (18)

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Love The Mets.

Hope the catching surprises me. I don't see them collectively doing any better than hitting .220, OPB of .285, and "slugging".340.
Of course "slugging" might be an apt description of our catchers.

Mattingly really bumming me out. Seems to suffer the same propensity for respecting old Yankee enemies to much that Torre struggled with. Navarro must have hurt the Yankees in 07' an 08' cause his evaluation of Navarro's talent reeks badly much the same way Torre's obsession with Wakefield led to the Knuckler fiasco of last spring. These are the Dodgers for christ's sake! We've had some of the greatest to ever strap on the tools. Ellis deserves the chance to play! His skill set is virtually identical to Soscia. His arm is not as strong but he has a much better eye at the plate and is rock solid at recieving and calling games. He also seems to have a great presence of mind when out on the field. Something that no one would ever accuse Navarro of.

Unusual to have two starting catchers and a backup all season long but not unheard of. I like Barajas, he's shown some pop but it should be an interesting competition if Navarro picks it up at the plate.

There is no catcher. I wish there were no owner.

Do things move slowly at 1000 Elysian Park Avenue? I read the dudgers have released catcher Pat Borders, 47; he retired almost 5 years ago but was 'still in the organization' (I've heard getting out of the stadium afterward can be an bit daunting, but really.)

Reportedly, lost angeles has now signed Orlando Mercado to a minor league deal (apparently, Duke Sims wasn't available.) ' O ' turns 40 later this year so at least we're getting younger if not any more timely (hitting, ownership resolution, etc.)

Hey Ellis may not be your offensive dream guy but he's paid a lot of dues in the minors and I for one think if he would be given a REAL shot at making the big club could and will do the job. This guy has been on a yo-yo from AAA to the big club for years, yet he never complains.... comes up when he gets the chance and does the job in spite of not knowing where he'll play tomorrow. He's home grown. Shame on you Mattingly... this kid should have the job and the others should have to prove they want it more and can do it better before it's just handed to 'em. Strike One!!! DonnieBall. Sorry guy... I've been a Dodgers fan since the days when team loyalty meant something. Geez I miss Mr. O'Malley!!

Mattingley is dealing with whatever he's been given by Colletti, who is dealing with whatever he's been given by you-know-who. Boo McCourt. Boo him. He's a sociopath who doesn't get it that the fans hate him. If the fans let him know, then maybe he'll get the message. He cares only about himself. He has no grasp on reality, witness his actions and statements regarding his ownership. The fans of Los Angeles have to force him out, if the MLB owners do not. Boo him. Boo him.
Until then, Mattingley will have no catchers and nobody in left field. Yes, it did all start with Peter O'Malley selling to the equally avaricious Rupert Murdock who, in turn, sold it to the equally avariciously criminal McCourts. Boo him.

By going from martin to Barajas we basically traded On-base percentage for power. Not sure if that's a good or bad thing.

Navarro was worth a shot as he's a bit similar to Martin; former all-star so the talent is (or at least WAS) there. However, if Ellis proves himself better than Navarro I hope he gets the gig. I don't want to see us hanging on to Dioner just because he's got the guaranteed contract.

Maybe Colletti will rescue our season by signing yet another ex Giant scrub. Bito Santiago!!!!!

Admittedly, it's probably too soon to tell, but from early returns, Mattingly does not appear to have much of an eye for talent. It took Joe Torre too long, imo, to pull Brox out of the closer's role last season, and now Mattingly insists Brox is his closer. And his assessment of Navarro as a hitter is questionable at best. Russell Martin stole the job right out from under Navarro, what, five years ago, and rightfully so, and now Mattingly thinks Navarro might be starter material. This is not the Dodgers I grew up with in the 50s and 60s.

And I agree with "since 58": Boo McScum. Boo him right out of the stadium, the county and the state, right back to Boston where he can rot. He's making a laughing stock out of our Dodgers.

But in addition to booing him, boycott Dodger Stadium and force him to sell the team. Money is the most important thing in the world to McScum, so hit him where it'll hurt most: in the bank account.


I thank Steve Dilbeck for using the words, I or me, instead of the stupid and thought as hip third person coinage 'a reporter' when writing the blog.

Simers doesn't use it. Maybe the rest of the Times sportswriters will stop using this faddish phrase.

Look, I'm as much a Dodger homer as anybody. And I like A.J. Ellis. He's a nice player. A good catcher. But to compare him to Mike Scioscia is ridiculous. He's nowhere near that good a catcher, and he can't hit anywhere close to what Scioscia did (and with some occasional pop, too, which Ellis lacks entirely). There's no need to get carried away, here, folks.

No one in my lifetime has ever blocked the plate as well as Scocia and certainly no new aged coddled player of todays game ever will, and his performance against the Mets in the 88' NLCS was epic. He is on of my all time favorite but out side of the 85' season he was never exceptional with the bat. He did a good job of not striking out and getting on base. When he first came up for real in '81 and started 91gms for an injured Yeager he led the league in passed balls with 11. The next year he had 14. Given time he corrected that and never had 10 again until leading the league with 14 in his last season. Ellis's lower minor league numbers are often times mirror images of Scocia's but when A.J. played full AAA seasons in 08' and 09' he begins to seperate himself offensively. Hitting .314 and .321. When a hitter has an obp 75pts higher than his avg he is exceptional.100 pts higher is rediculously good. think premier cleanup hitters. Very few people do it in the majors or minors. During Ellis' 800 plus PA's in 08 09, his OBP was a full 120pts higher both years. He doesn't hit many homers but he does hit alot of line drives hitting well over 30 2bs even 6 3bs which shows that he may not be fast but he can run the bases. Ellis never played on a weekly basis at the ML level until Aug and Sept last year. and he once again hit @.300 and his OBP was again 100pts higher. He'll never throw out 41% like Scocia but he was the Dodger's minor league defensive POY a couple years ago and seems to have the same command when straps the tools on. When you look at the numbers and even just the superficial things like their build and size, it's kinda of hard not to compare them. Scocia meant so much to the Dodgers of the 80's it seems odd that Ellis doesn't get more consideration from managment with all the similarities.

Another sign of how much the game has changed over the last 30 years: As a no-power catcher Scocia was still considered potentially important enough to be our 1st rnd pick(16th overall) in the 1976 draft.

Help me out here, guys. I'm running out of material over at the Gnats blog I troll and I'm having a tough time coming up with new stuff. Already made fun of the Panza's weight and said that their TV show is like Survivor because they voted off the World Series MVP. But after that it's getting really hard to come up with anything new. What else can I say to get their attention?

Mattingly was a complete and total bust as a hitting coach, so how the heck did he get to be manager? What a joke!

Mattingly played his entire career in the AL, so how does that qualify him to manage in the NL? What a joke!

AL=Checkers, NL=Chess. Same board, different game.

Colletti=Geppetto, Mattingly=Pinocchio.


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