Former Dodgers Catcher A.J. Ellis Praises Clayton Kershaw, Believes Velocity Will ‘Tick Up’ As Season Progresses
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw got off to a subpar and odd start in what’s his 11th season in the Majors. Through seven outings, he owns a 2.86 ERA, 3.68 FIP and 1.14 WHIP in 44 innings pitched, with 48 strikeouts to 10 walks.

It’s been nearly two years since Kershaw has teamed up with longtime battery mate A.J. Ellis, who was traded away to the Philadelphia Phillies at the waiver trade deadline in 2016.

But Ellis finds himself back in the National League West after signing a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres last offseason. He’s caught up with Kershaw when the Dodgers and Padres have played one another in recent series.

During an appearance on Dodger Talk on AM 570 L.A. Sports Radio, Ellis offered praise for Kershaw and believes he has adjusted well with age:

“It’s been interesting watching him pitch this year. He’s making small adjustments, he’s evolving a little bit. He’s getting a little bit older as well, he’s finding different ways to skin a cat. That’s the one thing about Clayton, he’s a competitor, he’s an athlete, he’s got tremendous feel for pitching, he’s got tremendous feel for winning and he understands that’s the main objective every time he takes the mound, to find a way to win. He’s not somebody who’s going to be stubborn and look for results doing the same thing over and over, if adjustments need to be made, he will adjust.”

One concern with Kershaw was a sudden decline in velocity, which in some regard was attributed to the left biceps tendinitis that forced him to the disabled list. Prior to that point, the three-time Cy Young Award winner had been relying more heavily on his slider.

Speaking before Kershaw’s injury was made public, Ellis explained he wasn’t concerned with the drop in velocity:

“I know there’s been a lot of talk about his velocity and the way it’s been down, but I think as the season progresses and he gets stronger and stronger you’re going to see some velocity tick up as he goes. But special pitcher, special teammate, special competitor and every time I get to see him pitch, I’m glued to the TV.”

Kershaw was widely expected to opt out of his contract in the offseason and test the open market, which is set to include the likes of fellow stars Josh Donaldson, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, among others.

The Dodgers, after resetting their luxury tax penalties, are well-positioned to retain Kershaw at essentially all costs. Of course, the injury may make Kershaw’s decision no longer a foregone conclusion.

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