El­lis makes first re­turn to Los Angeles since trade

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - SPORTS - By Tim Healey Staff writer thealey@sun­sen­tinel.com

LOS ANGELES — For the first time since his sud­den, sur­pris­ing, emo­tional trade last Au­gust, A.J. El­lis re­turned to Dodger Sta­dium on Thurs­day. And upon walk­ing through the cen­ter-field gate, as he did so of­ten for the bet­ter part of a decade, he ini­tially and in­stinc­tively walked to­ward the Dodgers’ club­house.

“You go right to­ward third base [and the home club­house] and you go left to this side,” El­lis said. “For the first time in my life, I look a left.”

El­lis is back thisweek­end as a Mi­ami Mar­lin play­ing against the Dodgers, the or­ga­ni­za­tion he was a part of from the 2003 draft un­til a trade to the Philadel­phia Phillies last sum­mer. The Dodgers wel­comed him back Thurs­day with a pregame ac­knowl­edg­ment of his pres­ence, capped by El­lis tip­ping his cap to the ador­ing crowd and Dodgers dugout.

Clay­ton Ker­shaw, the Los Angeles ace and three-time Cy Young Award win­ner, clapped and smiled wide.

“I miss him,” Ker­shaw said Thurs­day af­ter­noon, af­ter a quick visit to the Mar­lins dugout to say hello to his for­mer man­ager, Don Mat­tingly. “Noth­ing’s changed. It’s still the same guy. One of my best friends.”

The Ker­shaw-El­lis bro­mance has been a long-dis­tance one since their dugout cry Aug. 25. El­lis has caught Ker­shaw 118 times — by far Ker­shaw’s most com­mon back­stop — in­clud­ing June 18, 2014, when Ker­shaw threw a no-hit­ter against the Colorado Rock­ies.

El­lis and Ker­shaw hadn’t seen each other in close to nine months un­til din­ner Wed­nes­day night, but they talk of­ten and Ker­shaw has even em­ployed pre­vi­ously un­used mea­sures to main­tain that male friend­ship.

“He ac­tu­ally FaceTimed me on my birth­day [April 9],” El­lis said, ref­er­enc­ing Ap­ple’s video call­ing func­tion. “He said it’s the first time he ever FaceTimed an­other man be­fore. It was kind of awk­ward for both of us, but it was nice of him to do that.”

“That was my first man FaceTime,” Ker­shaw proudly con­firmed. “It’s go­ing to be tough to see each other [mov­ing for­ward]. We’ll do our best. Ob­vi­ously it’s still the same when we see each other.”

What has El­lis missed most since leav­ing Los Angeles and the Dodgers?

“I think I miss the com­mit­ment to win­ning. I miss the com­mit­ment to ev­ery­thing you do all day long is in prepa­ra­tion to win that night’s game,” said El­lis, who added that he sees sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween this Mar­lins team and the Dodgers be­fore they be­came a peren­nial con­tender. “You talk about some of the fran­chises that are in that mode right now, year in and year out, it’s a com­mit­ment to win­ning ball­games. Be­ing in that club­house over there, there’s no talk about bat­ting av­er­ages or ERAs. It’s where you’re at in the stand­ings. It’s a spe­cial place to come towork.”

Odds& ends

Left-han­der Jeff Locke (shoul­der ten­dini­tis) al­lowed three runs in 5 1⁄ in­nings 3 for Dou­ble-A Jack­sonville on Fri­day, his third re­hab start. He gave up seven hits, struck out seven and walked none. In three games, in­clud­ing two for High-A Jupiter, Locke has al­lowed four runs in 14 1⁄ 3 in­nings (2.51 ERA) while strik­ing out 17 and walk­ing none. …Righty Dan Straily will make his sched­uled start Satur­day de­spite a nasty bruise that takes up most of his right fore­arm af­ter a come­backer ear­lier thisweek. He said it doesn’t hurt, de­spite its ap­pear­ance. … The Mar­lins out­righted util­i­ty­man Mike Aviles to Triple-A New Or­leans.

PA­TRICK FAR­RELL/MI­AMI HER­ALD

A.J. El­lis caught Clay­ton Ker­shaw118 times, in­clud­ing the June 18, 2014 no-hit­ter.

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