A.J. Ellis on What it’s Like Catching Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke
The Dodgers announced on Thursday that A.J. Ellis had been traded to the Phillies for catcher Carlos Ruiz. This news came as a huge shock to fans, players, and media alike since the dust had settled since the trade deadline. Ellis may have not contributed much behind the plate or with the bat this season, but his knowledge of the game and leadership will be greatly missed.
Last year, Ellis wrote a piece for The Players Tribune titled “Catching Aces,” where he goes in depth into what it is like catching Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. The piece is not just insightful, it’s very heartwarming and shows his passion for the game and the Dodgers. Here are some of the highlights!
Catching Aces: A.J. Ellis
When Clayton pitches with an expiration date — two innings, 75 pitches, or whatever — it’s not good for him. He needs to pitch to win the game.
Honestly, one of the toughest things about catching an ace is the pressure you feel not to screw it up. You know how great they are and want to stay out of their way, but at the same time make sure their rhythm and timing stays the same. That there’s always comfort and trust.
With Zack, there’s a dialogue. We have a rolling conversation about hitters. He’s asking me questions, I’m asking him questions. Clayton has his sequences in mind and a very specific plan of what he’s going to do, but Zack feels out those first couple innings, testing the enemy’s defenses and making constant adjustments on the fly.
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Without a doubt, the best chemistry I’ve ever had is with Clayton. He’s the guy I’ve caught the most. We feel totally at ease with each other, and I know the trust level is there.
We built up that understanding and friendship, even beyond how we played together on the field. He tries to act older than his age, and I try to act a lot younger than mine, so we meet in the middle with a chemistry that comes from being friends first.
Zack’s also incredibly, sometimes even brutally, honest. He’ll tell me all the time, “I think you could have caught that ball better, and we might have gotten a strike call.” Originally I took offense, but I’ve come to realize it’s not personal. He’s just telling me what he thinks.
The opportunity to work with two pitchers this good is rare. I’m incredibly fortunate. It’s my job not to screw it up.
He loved his job and made sure that every day he put in the work to be an asset to the team that day. His article was beautifully written and really brings to life how dedicated he was to the team. Now in order to stop the tears rolling down your face, watch this little skit A.J. Ellis and Clayton Kershaw did a few years back!
Like I said earlier, Ellis was not some hotshot at the plate or the best catcher in the league, but he had more to offer than that. He was another coach in the dugout watching every pitch and providing information. He was a leader, giving advice to guys struggling at the plate by breaking down the opposing pitcher. An ego didn’t exist with Ellis. As you can see in his piece above, he was honored to catch the guys that he caught and felt the pressure to not disappoint. He will be a great addition to the Phillies not because he belongs there, but because thats just who he is.
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