A.J. Ellis had lost his way, a price it seems, for always wanting to improve.
The trouble with trying to become a better hitter was, he was no longer the hitter who had been successful the past two seasons as the Dodgers’ main catcher.
Ellis has played precious little thus far in the season, spending two stints on the disabled list after knee surgery and then a sprained ankle. But in the first 15 games he had played before going on the DL a second time May 26, he was struggling, batting just .170.
Yet since returning Friday, there have been signs he’s becoming the hitter the Dodgers were used to seeing. In his first three games back, he is 4 for 7 with three walks, managing to push his average to .222. And the Dodgers won all three.
“It is good to be back, good to be back playing, good to be getting at-bats again,” Ellis said. “I got to do a lot of mental work when I was on the DL, kind of check out my swing and check out some of the things I was doing, some habits that probably weren’t correct.”
Ellis credits hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Valentin for recognizing he had gotten away from the approach that worked for him. He spent his time on the DL making adjustments.
“A little mechanics, a little mental approach,” he said. “Being the hitter I’ve been my whole career — who works the count, sees a lot of pitches, stays usually in the middle of the field, goes the other way, just try to be a really tough out. Anything else that happens — doubles, home runs, extra-base hits — those are all a bonus.”
Ellis has returned without going on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues.
“Kind of a case for no rehab, right?” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. “He walks that first game he comes back, gets the quality at-bat and makes the guy work. He’s got some hits for us too. He looks good at the plate, good and fresh.”
He should be fresh, he’s only played in 18 of the Dodgers’ 72 games. But his recent time on the DL appears well spent if it means finding the approach that led him to a .255 average and .347 on-base percentage the past two seasons.
No more trying to reinvent himself.
“You start feeling really good with your swing, [and] personally I always want to get better instead of being content with who you are,” he said. “Which is a lesson maybe I need to learn: That who I am is good enough and I don’t need to do any extra at the plate than what’s made me successful here at the major leagues.
"All this time, maybe it’s been a blessing for me to kind of figure out who I am and what my skill set should be as an offensive player.”