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Ellis reaches Minors deal with Padres

Veteran catcher will compete with Gale, Lopez to back up Hedges
MLB.com @AJCassavell

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres added a veteran backstop to their backup catcher battle on Wednesday evening, agreeing to a non-roster deal with free agent A.J. Ellis.

Ellis will report on Thursday afternoon and undergo his physical before beginning work with pitchers on Friday. He will compete with Rocky Gale and Raffy Lopez for a place on the Opening Day roster behind starter Austin Hedges.

PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Padres added a veteran backstop to their backup catcher battle on Wednesday evening, agreeing to a non-roster deal with free agent A.J. Ellis.

Ellis will report on Thursday afternoon and undergo his physical before beginning work with pitchers on Friday. He will compete with Rocky Gale and Raffy Lopez for a place on the Opening Day roster behind starter Austin Hedges.

"He comes in with no real guarantee but every opportunity to compete for that spot," Padres manager Andy Green said.

Ellis, 36, is easily the most experienced of the bunch, having played in parts of 10 big league seasons, including his first 8 1/2 with the Dodgers. The club is particularly thrilled about the wealth of knowledge he brings to the catcher spot with a young group of pitchers in camp.

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"There's something powerful when you're catching [prospects] and you can say, 'This is the way [Clayton] Kershaw did it, I caught him for years, I saw him coming up,' and when you're catching young righties, you say, 'This is what [Zack] Greinke did, this is what Dan Haren did,'" Green noted. "You have a catcher, not just a coach, saying those things to prospects."

In 51 games for the Marlins last season, Ellis batted .210/.298/.371. Known mostly for his solid defense and ability to reach base, Ellis is a career .237/.337/.353 hitter with 43 home runs and three years of postseason experience.

Ellis' big league track record might make him the early favorite for the backup job, but the club intends to give equal opportunity to all three.

Gale, who turns 30 next week, was a career Minor Leaguer until a callup in 2015 and again last season. Lopez, 30, has 84 plate appearances over parts of three seasons. He hit 20 homers at three levels last year, including four for the Blue Jays.

Lopez signed a Minor League deal during the offseason, while Gale is the only catcher of the bunch currently on the 40-man roster, which currently sits at 39. Ellis, meanwhile, has an opt-out clause if he's not on the big league roster for the start of the season.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.

San Diego Padres, A.J. Ellis