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Ellis on mentoring young catchers: 'I'm excited'

September 6, 2018

CINCINNATI -- Padres catcher A.J. Ellis knows his playing time will be limited at best over the final three weeks of the regular season, as he has been asked by manager Andy Green to transition into a mentorship role for starter Austin Hedges and prospectFrancisco Mejia."I don't have control over

CINCINNATI -- Padres catcher A.J. Ellis knows his playing time will be limited at best over the final three weeks of the regular season, as he has been asked by manager Andy Green to transition into a mentorship role for starter Austin Hedges and prospectFrancisco Mejia.
"I don't have control over it," the 37-year-old backstop said. "Every day, I get to wake up and come to a big league clubhouse. I'm excited, no matter what role I'm in. I'm excited to help the Padres as they transition and figure out who's going to be part of their future. I'll embrace that responsibility with a lot of pride."
Ellis, a veteran of 12 Major League seasons, assumes his new role while enjoying one of his best seasons at the plate, hitting a career-high .291 in 56 games entering Thursday night. His .389 on-base percentage is the second highest for all big league catchers with at least 50 games played. Ellis has thrown out seven attempted basestealers, his most since nabbing eight in 2015.

But despite those numbers, Ellis is the odd man out behind the 26-year-old Hedges and the 22-year-old Mejia, who made his first start behind the plate for the Padres on Thursday in Cincinnati.
San Diego signed Ellis to a one-year contract worth $1.25 million in February. He spent the first 13 years of his professional career with the Dodgers, who took him in the 18th round of the 2003 Draft, before he was traded to the Phillies in August 2016. He spent last season with the Marlins.
"We've talked," Green said. "There's going to be minimal opportunity if this plays out the way we expect it to. His role is more of a mentor. I think all the guys on the team at this time realize he's the type of person who wants to help them and give them what he's learned in this game."
Ellis said he'll take a more organic approach to his mentorship role, harkening back to the players who helped him when he debuted for the Dodgers in 2008.
"You don't want to act like the hall monitor or the sheriff," Ellis said. "You just want to be available for guys. The players who had an impact on me when I walked into a Major League clubhouse for the first time -- guys like Casey Blake, and Jamey Carroll, and Brad Ausmus, and a little bit later Mark Ellis. The impact those guys had on me, if I can make a similar impact, I'm available."
While he has no control over his future beyond this season, Ellis said he has no immediate plans to retire, even though he's the oldest catcher currently in the Majors and has 662 games and 1,938 at-bats under his belt.
"The process is my favorite part of the game," Ellis said. "The process of getting ready to compete offensively and defensively and know that you've done your mental work, to have the edge in those moments, that's a rewarding day."

Jeff Wallner is a contributor to MLB.com based in Cincinnati.