LOS ANGELES -- Just shipped from the first-place Dodgers to the fourth-place Phillies, A.J. Ellis broke that crushing news to close friend and batterymate Clayton Kershaw.
"Shocked. Quiet," Ellis said, describing Kershaw's reaction. "The shock kind of hit us both simultaneously and we both cried."
Kershaw wasn't available to speak about the trade of Ellis, 35, with Minor League pitcher Tommy Bergjans and a player to be named or cash considerations for catcher Carlos Ruiz and $1 million. Management views Ruiz as an offensive upgrade from the popular Ellis when facing left-handed pitching, with no dropoff in the chemistry department.
"It was a tough decision on a personal level," said Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations. "From a baseball standpoint, we felt Carlos fit our team extremely well. I can go on and on about A.J. and his attributes and what he brings to a team, and if Carlos didn't possess similar things, we wouldn't have made the move. In terms of leadership ability, ability to call a game and run a pitching staff, Carlos rates extremely well in those things and has experience in what he brings to the lineup against left-handed pitching, which [we] focused on as an area we wanted to improve."
Ruiz has an .830 OPS in 24 games against lefties this year, while Ellis has a .616 OPS in 29 games against left-handers. The Dodgers made the trade even though Austin Barnes, the Dodgers' 10th-ranked prospect according to MLBPipeline.com, is day to day at Triple-A with a bruised hand. Ruiz, who has a 2017 option for $4.5 million or a $500,000 buyout, is expected to join the Dodgers on Friday.
Ruiz waived a no-trade clause Wednesday after two days of contemplation.
"It's sad to leave, but another part of me is happy because I've got an opportunity to go to the postseason and the playoffs and have a chance to go back to the World Series," said Ruiz. "I'll be playing with Chase [Utley] and [Joe] Blanton, Juan Castro. These guys used to play with me here in Philly. That's exciting. It was tough, but at the same time I'm happy. I cannot wait to go there and do my best to help the Dodgers go to the playoffs. But I'm definitely going to miss Philly."
After learning his fate, Ellis said goodbye to teammates and staff, then shared his emotions with the media before joining his new team.
"Baseball's funny -- anything can happen in the future, but to know that almost in all likelihood I'll never get to catch [Kershaw] again is, without a doubt, the most devastating thing I'm feeling right now," he said. "We hung out for a few moments and tried to process what's happening. It's very difficult. I'm almost out of tears now."
Long a clubhouse leader, Ellis said Justin Turner is "the new heart and soul" of the team. Turner called Ellis his "sounding board. Definitely from that aspect and that leadership role, it's going to be an adjustment."
Ellis said he wasn't angry, understands that trades are part of the business and considered himself lucky for not experiencing this sooner. None of that, though, made it easier to accept.
"This team is playing great baseball right now, going in such a great direction. It's fun going to the park every day, even not playing; it's been so much fun being a Dodger the last few weeks and few months," he said.
"To not be part of the Dodger-Giant rivalry anymore, it's tough to comprehend. I say words like sad, disappointed, devastated. There are also words like grateful, thankful, blessed, honored, privileged. There's nothing like wearing a Dodger jersey, nothing like it in sports. Nothing like coming into this stadium and playing baseball."
Ruiz, 37, is hitting .261 with three homers and 12 RBIs in 48 games this year, his 11th in the big leagues. Ruiz was a 2012 All-Star. He is hitting .340 (16-for-47) since the All-Star break.
Ellis said he took "extreme pride" in being the longest-tenured player on the roster, "but that's gone in a blink of the eye, without a chance to feel finality to it, and it rips your heart out," he said.
That said, Ellis actually lost his starting job in one of current management's first moves, the acquisition of Yasmani Grandal from San Diego in the Matt Kemp deal after the 2014 season. Since Grandal's bat has heated up in recent months, even Ellis' limited playing time has dried up.
"His world is still upside down; I've been there," said manager Dave Roberts, traded by the Dodgers to Boston in 2004. "I just told him how much he helped me grow as a first-year manager. I hope I helped him grow as a player. I know that being around him, I was better for it."