By Jack McCaffery
NEW YORK >> When he was traded
last week to the Phillies, A.J. Ellis resisted any celebrations.
More to the point, he was disappointed.
Even more to the point, he was disturbed.
But by Saturday night, he was warming
to the idea. And by Sunday, that will be him, 60-feet, six inches
from Vince Velasquez in CitiField as the Phillies' starting catcher.
“You get traded off a contending team
to a non-contender, you can’t be happy about that,” Pete Mackanin
said before the Phils' 12-1 loss to the Mets. “But he’s over it.
He’s moving forward.”
Ellis is the 34-year-old catcher who
had played his entire nine-year big-league career with the Dodgers.
When he was traded with pitching prospect Tommy Bergjans to the Phils
for Carlos Ruiz and cash, he was quoted as telling teammates he was
But there he was in the bullpen earlier
Saturday, working with young Phillies pitchers Jerad Eickhoff and
“The waves of emotion are getting
farther and farther apart, which is a good thing,” Ellis said.
“Arriving here and meeting the staff, I'm starting to feel
re-energized, refueled with a sense of purpose as to why I’ve been
placed here, and why this where I need to be at this time. I’m
excited about that.
“I know I have huge shoes to fill.
Carlos Ruiz is such a fixture in the Phillies organization. The work
that he’s done here behind the plate, you can’t fill. This guy is
a world champion catcher who has been back there for so many great
baseball memories. So it’s up to me to do my part to fill the
Not signed past this year, Ellis'
purpose in Philadelphia likely is as a placeholder behind Cameron
Rupp until next season, when either Andrew Knapp or Jorge Alfaro is
ready for a promotion to the majors.
“The thing we like about him is his
experience and his game-calling skills,” Mackanin said, “and
things like that.”
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Among Ellis' earliest tasks was to help
the Phillies' hitters self-scout themselves. That's because Mackanin
had the veteran catcher share the Dodgers' “book” on each hitter.
“We’ve seen these guys twice in the
last couple weeks,” Ellis said. “We can dig into those
conversations and talk to the offensive side of how we wanted to
attack them and as a catcher, things that I’ve noticed from
watching them swing the bats. Maybe that can create better offensive
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Friday, the Phils lost, 9-4. Saturday,
it was 12-1, scoring only on Freddy Galvis' home run.
“No offense to talk about other than
Freddy's home run,” Mackanin said. “Nice to see that. But the
last two nights, there were plenty of earned runs given up. Bad
pitching. The funny thing about it is we are 11-11 in the month of
August. So it's hard to figure out. But tonight was embarrassing.
“One good thing I was made aware of
is we haven't made an error in the last 11 games. So it's not like
we're booting the ball all over the place and making bad plays.
That's something positive to think about. Just put this one behind
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Jeremy Hellickson lasted only four
innings, allowing seven hits and two home runs, including a three-run
shot by Yoenis Cespedes and two-run Asdrubal Cabrera poke.
“I've been on a nice little run,”
said Hellickson, who hadn't lost since July 15. “I just lost
command of all three pitches tonight. I think the two home runs were
two of the better fastballs that I threw. Yeah, it’s a good lineup
that’s hot right now. You can’t make too many mistakes like I did
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Velasquez (8-6, 4.31 ERA) will face New
York right-hander Robert Gsellman at 1:10 Sunday afternoon. The Phils
will be home Monday night to start a three-game series with