Dodgers' A.J. Ellis has potential to be an All-Star

A.J. Ellis, an All-Star?

"Why not?" Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly asked.

Lost in the avalanche of home runs by Matt Kemp and Dodgers victories has been the play of Ellis, who, at 31, is in his first season as a major league starting catcher.

Mattingly and General Manager Ned Colletti went into the season referring to catcher as a "defensive position" — a polite way of saying they didn't expect Ellis to contribute much offensively.

But Ellis entered Thursday ranked fourth in the majors among catchers with an on-base percentage of .449. He has almost as many walks (16) as he has hits (19) and sees an average of 4.84 pitches per plate appearances, the most in the majors.

Jokingly asked why he never swings the bat, Ellis laughed. "You sound like my wife," he said. "She likes it when I swing. She gets nervous when the at-bats go long."

Ellis credits third base coach Tim Wallach for teaching him to be disciplined. When Wallach managed Ellis at triple-A Albuquerque, he batted him eighth, which is where he hits now for the Dodgers.

Ellis learned the importance of turning over the lineup with two out — reaching base to ensure the pitcher wouldn't lead off the next inning. He also learned to expand his strike zone with runners in scoring position, knowing the pitcher batting behind him was unlikely to drive in the runner.

"It's knowing my role on the team," Ellis said.

Belisario returns

Ronald Belisario was reinstated from baseball's restricted list Thursday after serving a 25-game suspension for a positive cocaine test.

Reliever Mike MacDougal was designated for assignment to open a place on the roster for Belisario, a hard-throwing right-hander with a mid-90s-mph sinker. MacDougal posted a 7.94 earned-run average in seven appearances this season. He walked six batters in 5 2/3 innings.

Belisario, 29, will be looking to revive a once-promising career that was derailed by a series of personal problems. He posted a 2.04 ERA in 69 appearances as a rookie in 2009 but was arrested that year for suspicion of driving under the influence. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. In 2010, he left the team for more than a month to undergo substance-abuse treatment.

Short hops

The Dodgers are working on a deal to sign free-agent outfielder Bobby Abreu. … Infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr., who suffered a torn muscle on his left side in spring training, started a minor league rehabilitation assignment with Albuquerque.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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