It has been a week since pitchers and catchers were scheduled to report to Dodgers spring training, and so far 58 of the 59 players invited to big league camp have shown up to Camelback Ranch. Eliezer Alfonzo is the only one who hasn't yet reported, and the team isn't quite sure when the catcher will show up.
"He was supposed to be here Monday," said manager Don Mattingly on Tuesday.
Alfonzo is dealing with a family issue, something the team knew about when he was signed to a minor league contract and invited to spring training. Given that Alfonzo is one of five catchers competing to backup A.J. Ellis on the major league roster, the Dodgers aren't exactly missing him.
"He's not on the roster, and it's a family issue. There are things he's dealing with, that we knew about from the beginning," Mattingly said. "There hasn't been anybody clamoring at what's going on."
With 28 pitchers in camp, there is always a need for catchers just during workouts, but Mattingly said things are working out with the five catchers in camp: Ellis, Tim Federowicz, Jesus Flores, Ramon Castro, and Wilkin Castillo. But if they do happen to need another catcher, Mattingly said they would call on director of player development De Jon Watson to send someone over from the minor league side. Gorman Erickson or Matt Wallach, who began 2012 in major league camp, could be two such options.
But Mattingly said he is not yet at the point of spring training that the backups are competing just yet.
"We're just working right now. We haven't got into games," Mattingly said. "We kind of know all these guys, we're starting to see what they can do, get them in shape. I don't know that we've started the competition yet."
No matter who wins the backup catcher job, they will likely catch a little more often than Matt Treanor did last season, as Mattingly plans to give Ellis more rest in 2013.
"We felt A.J. played a little too much last year. I probably should have given him a few more days. Depending on how the off days fall, is how we'll do it," Mattingly said. "He was kind of up and down. He'd have good months and struggling months. Just in general, he caught more games than he ever caught before. Just a little too much."
Ellis was fourth in the major leagues with 128 starts and 1,151 innings behind the plate in 2012. He went from an OPS of .843 in April and .975 in May to just .650 in June and .717 in July. Ellis rebounded with an .840 OPS in August, but had a .661 mark in September that included an 0-for-30 slump.
Mattingly said he didn't have an exact number of days off in mind for Ellis, but that he would mix more of them in throughout the year to keep him energized.
"It's not so much an exact number, but being able to use the other guy and keep him fresh. It works to keep both of them sharp," Mattingly said.
Mattingly said Alfonzo's absence will have him behind in the eventual race to backup Ellis. But he also understands Alfonzo's situation.
"It's hard to compete when you're not here," Mattingly said. "It sounds like something that's out of his control, and some things just kind of take precedence at some point."