Ellis makes first return to Los Angeles since trade
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.”
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.
A.J. Ellis caught Clayton Kershaw118 times, including the June 18, 2014 no-hitter.