Clayton Kershaw #22 and A.J. Ellis #17 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates defeating the San Francisco Giants 5-0 at AT&T Park on July 26, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Kershaw pitched a two hit, complete game shutout. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
All week ESPN’s Buster Olney has let guest writers take over his blog.
Thursday was Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis’s turn.
It’s pretty great.
It’s widely known that he and Clayton Kershaw are best friends. They’ve even developed an Orel Hershiser, Mike Scioscia-type working relationship. So, Ellis used his post (a.k.a. his audition for a big league manager job when his career ends) to wax poetic on the behind-the-scenes prep work he and Kershaw go through before each start.
And, what he basically let everyone know is that Kershaw has a team beat when he gets to the clubhouse that day.
Ellis says before a start the lefty does the requisite study of film and scouting reports. Then the lefty, Ellis and pitching coach Rich Honeycutt will meet two hours before the first pitch and create a game plan for the night.
Those pre-game meetings are not democratic filibusters. Kershaw flat out runs them. Ellis says he’s serious, keeps his answers short and expects the catcher to remember his orders like they’re nuclear missile codes.
Oh, and don’t dare question the boss.
“In the three years I have been humbled to catch Kersh, I‘ve learned to keep my mouth shut and not offer up information that goes against his typical arsenal of pitches. Even though the stats may lead me in a different direction, we are both keenly aware that his strengths are what separate him from the rest.”
I can see how that conversation would go.
Ellis: “Hey, 22, why don’t we back-door the slider on McCutchen when the count…”
(Kershaw gives the death stare)
(Ellis drops his eyes)
Ellis: “I know what to do. You’re right. We’re good.”
I guess, when you have two Cy Young Awards (and will likely add a third this season) you’re not called a dictator but, rather, Sergeant of Arms.
Kershaw’s known to ooze intensity on the mound. So, it’s fascinating to hear that at 26 years old he approaches his craft with that same Hall of Fame-type fire.
If I was a National League hitter knowing the game’s best pitcher goes that hard and has me figured out, I might call in sick the next time he’s in town.
Ellis on Zack Greinke:
"He, especially, wants to know, and avoid, the specific areas where each hitter’s power is located. Zack is the most inquisitive student of the game I’ve ever met, and he breaks downs video as well as anyone I’ve caught."
On catching Dodger relievers:
“Most relievers don’t offer up a bid variety of options in their repertoire but they do make up for it with the velocity and movement of the pitches that they throw. These last few crucial innings of a game usually turn into a battle of my best against your best. We don’t over think it. Even if the best fastball hitter in the game is in the box with the game on the line.”
So, there you have it from A.J. Ellis. Catcher. Blogger. Cultural Anthropologist.