News today on Dodgers.com that catcher Russell Martin will be sidelined four to six weeks with a pulled groin has thrust former Isotope A.J. Ellis to the front of the Dodgers’ catching depth chart, meaning there’s a good chance Ellis will open the 2010 season as Los Angeles’ starting backstop.
Joe Torre has stated that Brad Ausmus will continue to serve as the backup during Spring Training and there are no plans to pursue a catcher outside the organization so it looks like, at least for now, the job is Ellis’s to lose.
It’s a quite a reversal from a few months ago when Ausmus signed a one-year contract, essentially guaranteeing Ellis another year in Albuquerque. Now Ellis will get a chance to prove himself for a prolonged period (an opportunity he didn’t really get last year in two brief call-ups) and maybe earn a spot that would keep him in L.A. when Martin returns.
As for the ‘Topes, there’s still plenty of time left in Spring Training but an early candidate for the lion’s share of Albuquerque’s catching duties is J.D. Closser, who joined the Isotopes last June and was the team’s starting catcher in the playoffs last year after Ellis got called up. Also keep an eye on Lucas May, a prospect who is well thought of in the Dodgers organization, getting his third straight invitation to Major League camp this year. Last season, May got off to a solid start at Double-A Chattanooga before going on the DL in late May with a fractured wrist. He came back in July and ended the season batting .306 with six homers and 32 RBI in 68 games. To get some more at-bats, May spent last fall in the Arizona Fall League and batted a scorching .325 with two homers and 12 RBI in 12 games.
May has played the last two seasons at Double-A so it makes sense that this year he’d get a chance to prove himself at Triple-A.