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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

A.J. Ellis catching onto the idea of playing for Phillies

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 “absolutely devastated.”
But there he was in the bullpen earlier Saturday, working with young Phillies pitchers Jerad Eickhoff and Jake Thompson.
“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 void.”
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 at-bats.”
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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 us.”
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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 tonight.”
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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 Washington.


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