Could A.J. Ellis sighting put him back in the battle for possible Dodgers roster spot?
Meanwhile, remember A.J. Ellis?
He would probably understand if you’d forgotten. His has been the most invisible of spring trainings, which made for some serious bad timing.
In theory, Ellis (pictured at left) came to camp in contention with Dioner Navarro for the backup catching spot behind Rod Barajas. Even though prior to camp, Manager Don Mattingly said Navarro would battle Barajas for the starting position. Which told you where Ellis was in the pecking order.
Barajas started playing reasonably well, and after a slow start, Navarro too. All while Ellis struggled, managing just three hits in 27 spring at-bats.
His fate seemed clear: back to triple-A Albuquerque.
Then Navarro hurt himself swinging the bat in a workout before Thursday’s game, which sort of symbolizes how Dodgers have gone down this spring. It’s those little things.
Immediately attention turned to Hector Gimenez, this spring’s unknown from Venezuela who has been turning heads. Gimenez started Thursday.
But it was Ellis who emerged the day’s hero, drilling a walk-off, three-run homer to cap a seven-run ninth inning that left the Dodgers with a 7-5 victory over the Rockies.
Understand, Ellis and home runs occur just slightly more often than a Halley’s Comet sighting. In his last two seasons at Albuquerque and Los Angeles, Ellis hit exactly … zero home runs.
So they’re not his forte. No one claimed otherwise; he’s more of a slap hitter. But he performed well behind the plate last season, was liked by teammates and finished the season like something was clicking. In his final 16 games for the Dodgers, he hit .417.
When the Dodgers let Russell Martin go and then re-signed Barajas, you momentarily thought Ellis would return as the backup. Then came Navarro. And in spring, Gimenez arrived.
Gimenez is still the more likely candidate to stick if Navarro is unable to start the season, if only because he’s out of options and Ellis is not.
Still, it was good to see Ellis rise to the moment Thursday. There’s a week left, and stranger things have happened. Sort of like an Ellis home run.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photo credit: Morry Gash / Associated Press