In trading backup catcher A.J. Ellis to the Philadelphia Phillies, the Los Angeles Dodgers lost a respected presence in their clubhouse. While Carlos Ruiz possesses many of the same traits as Ellis, Ruiz can’t replicate the 13 years Ellis spent in the organization.
But even with the void left by Ellis’ departure, the Dodgers’ roster is littered with several veteran leaders. Namely, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Clayton Kershaw and Chase Utley. But according to Ellis, his former teammates lean heavily on Justin Turner.
“There’s some great guys in [Dodgers clubhouse]. We’ve got a new heart and soul of this team,” Ellis said shortly after being notified of the trade.
“Justin Turner has become the voice of this club. Not just in that clubhouse, but on the field, the way he plays every single day. He’s a guy who’s really stepped up and become the guy we all look to.”
Turner was non-tendered by the New York Mets after the 2013 season, and he signed with the Dodgers in February 2014 on a Minor League contract that included an invitation to big league camp.
The rest has been history. Turner played his way onto the Dodgers 2014 Opening Day roster, and has solidified himself as the club’s everyday third baseman and No. 3 hitter.
Now in his third season with the Dodgers, Turner was among the several players who developed a close relationship with Ellis.
“He was kind of my sounding board. We spent hours and hours talking on planes and in the weight room after games about what we can do to be better and how we can get better,” Turner said of Ellis. “A lot of the things I’ve had to say came from those conversations.”
The Dodgers’ heartbeat avoid arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $5.1 million contract during the offseason. Turner is in line for longterm security this winter as he’s having another strong year and is eligible for free agency after the 2016 season.