Ellis will likely have bigger role next season

Ellis will likely have bigger role next season

ATLANTA -- Rod Barajas has done exactly what the Dodgers hoped for this year, providing solid receiving with occasional power.

He's hitting .238 with 15 homers, 41 RBIs and a .737 OPS in 83 games. Russell Martin, who he replaced, is hitting .238 with 17 homers, 61 RBIs and a .743 OPS in 107 games for the Yankees. But Barajas will be a free agent after the season, coming off a $3.25 million salary. The Dodgers are considering going young -- and cheap -- behind the plate next year, with A.J. Ellis and newly acquired Tim Federowicz possibly sharing duties, and redirecting a bulk of the payroll for a big bat.

Federowicz is expected to be called up this week from Triple-A, while Eills slugged his second home run of the season Saturday night, less than two weeks after being promoted to replace Dioner Navarro.

Coincidental or not, the Dodgers are 33-22 while Ellis has been with them this year. He said it's no coincidence that the team's current hot streak reflects some of the young talent getting playing time.

"We have an energy about us now," he said. "It doesn't matter what the score is, we feel we're in every game. It has a lot to do with the young guys, they bring energy. It's fun just to be playing."

As for Ellis' future role, he's always been considered a fine catch-and-throw backstop. Toward the end of last season his offense started to catch up and he's continued that this year at Triple-A and the big leagues.

"It goes back to my work last year with [former hitting coach] Jeff Pentland, who helped me develop a swing path and hit with more authority," Ellis said. "The stuff I learned with [Albuquerque hitting coach] John Valentin and continued with [interim hitting coach] Dave Hansen. I've been blessed to have three great coaches in the last year."

Not to mention Don Mattingly, last year's primary hitting coach and now Ellis' manager.

"A.J. made big strides last year and you see it now in batting practice, he hits the ball with authority," said Mattingly. "He's worked hard on his swing. The ball he hit [Saturday night] to center field, he crushed it.

"He's come a long way. He's got a good eye, he's always been an on-base guy. So he works himself into good counts and pitchers are going to come after him, and being able to hit the ball in the seats makes him a little more dangerous."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.