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Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw praises new Dodgers catcher Carlos Ruiz, laments loss of A.J. Ellis

A.J. Ellis, Clayton Kershaw
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw chats with catcher A.J. Ellis during spring training last season.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A new catcher occupied A.J. Ellis’ old locker at Dodger Stadium on Friday afternoon. On his first day as a Dodger, Carlos Ruiz found himself next door to Clayton Kershaw, a close friend of Ellis and one of his strongest advocates in the organization.

The departure of Ellis on Thursday rocked the Dodgers’ clubhouse, and perhaps no man felt the loss more acutely than Kershaw. He wept with Ellis in the dugout before Ellis left the ballpark to join the Phillies.

A day later, after throwing a 60-pitch bullpen session as he approaches a return to the majors, Kershaw spoke with reporters about the trade.

What was yesterday like for you?

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“It was hard, man. It was really hard. Carlos Ruiz is awesome. Heard nothing but great things. But it’s a tremendous subtraction from this team. There’s no doubt about it. Just what he brought to the team, as one of my best friends, but I think everybody.

“He really brought that presence that not a lot of people have, where you can just get along with everybody. And really help everybody’s careers. That’s something that’s not easily replaced.”

Did it feel like seeing a family member leave?

“Yeah. There’s no getting around it. It’s really hard. It’s been a rough couple of days. He lives in Milwaukee, so it’s not like we’re going to be hanging out in the off-season. We’ll obviously keep in touch and hang out. But it’s going to be tough, for sure.”

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As a business decision, did you grasp why the team did this?

“I don’t even really think about it. I just see A.J. leaving. Carlos Ruiz comes highly recommended from a lot of different guys. Cares. Loves the game. Chase loves him to death. So that tells you all you need to know right there. But I don’t really think of the corresponding moves. I just think about A.J. leaving.”

Does Ruiz’s resume and reputation make the trade more understandable?

“I’m not even going to let myself think about that. It’s just a really abrupt ending. A.J. kind of described it like a car wreck. We both knew that this might have been our last season together. But we’ve been saying that for four years, and it keeps working out. We realized what a huge blessing it was to have that time. But when you see each other every day, you play with each other every day, you take it for granted. That abrupt ending was tough.”

Did you appreciate the outpouring of affection for A.J. yesterday?

“Rightfully so. He’s meant a lot to this organization. He’s done a lot. Not only as the guy, everybody talks about the guy he was, but he was pretty good there for a while, and one of the better postseason guys that we’ve ever had. There’s a lot to be said about his skill level, too. Absolutely. He meant a lot.

“He got drafted in 2003. So that’s a really long time.”

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Ellis said that the hardest part of the trade was knowing he would never catch you again. What was it like throwing to him?

“That’s just the guy he is. The pitcher-catcher relationship is pretty one-sided. We get all the credit, and then we take all the blame, and the catcher’s just kind of there, and that’s the way it is. But A.J. thrives at that. He prepares harder than anybody. He prepares harder than all of us do for our own individual starts or bullpen roles. He does that for 12 different guys, every single series.

“He takes a lot of pride in it. He has a servant’s heart. He really does. And so it’s not going to be easy not throwing to him anymore, for sure.”

MORE DODGERS NEWS

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A.J. Ellis and Clayton Kershaw get emotional after catcher is dealt to Phillies

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