Pundits from Walla Walla, Washington to Kalamazoo cautioned Dodgers fans about how injuries and a weak bench could affect the team's season, and we're about to find out whether they were right.
Catcher A.J. Ellis had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee today, with an expected recovery time of four to six weeks. The club will announce a prognosis, perhaps this afternoon, accompanied by a statement no doubt calling the procedure "a success." Sports surgeries are almost always deemed a success immediately afterwards, so what that tells me is only that the patient survived it.
Tim Federowicz is expected to be called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to replace Ellis on the roster and is likely to get the lion's share of the playing time beginning tonight. Federowicz was Ellis' backup last season, starting 42 games behind the plate, while sporting a .231/.275/.356 line, with four home runs and 16 RBIs. While those aren't spectacular numbers, Los Angeles will gladly take that type of production.
There's just no telling if they'll get it. This is FedEx's first opportunity to play regularly in the big leagues. He might grab hold of the chance and work his way into a larger role going forward, or he might struggle from the minute he gets here. In what translates to three years' worth of minor league action, Federowicz has hit for average (.287), gotten on base (.355) and provided a little bit of pop (141 doubles, 52 homers and 304 RBIs), with about a third of those totals coming in the hitter-friend Pacific Coast League.
I think FedEx can hit. L.A. hopes he can hit, and they're confident he'll be a standout defensive player. He's familiar with most of the staff from 2013, and presumably caught all the new guys in Spring Training, so the pitchers should be comfortable enough. Injuries happen and catchers are especially vulnerable. But the Dodgers are a pitching organization, their pitchers are professionals, and they'll handle that part of it.
While more will be revealed as to whether FedEx can become an offensive juggernaut, we know that the incumbent reserve catcher, Drew Butera, cannot. Veteran backstop Miguel Olivo is another option, if the Dodgers are willing to give him a coveted spot on their 40-man roster. He'll remain in New Mexico for the time being, probably to be joined by a free agent catcher as soon as the team can find one suitable.
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Because catchers get hurt as a matter of course (and are often overworked by their managers), I'm a proponent of the two-catcher system, whereby a team, rather than relying on one guy to carry the full load and screws itself when the starter goes down, instead goes out of its way to have two capable men share responsibilities. One plays more than the other, sure, but it's not 140 for the regular and 22 for the backup, with the starter being a total stud and the reserve being mostly a dud.
Former Dodger and current Pirate Russell Martin will be a free agent after this season. A return engagement, with Ellis in tandem, is an example of such a two-catcher setup; the prototype, actually. And the Dodgers can certainly afford the luxury.
And remember, (a catcher's) glove conquers all.