Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Category: Profiles (Page 3 of 3)

Seth Rosin focuses amid uncertainty

Bullpen coach Chuck Crim watches Seth Rosin on Tuesday.

Bullpen coach Chuck Crim watches Seth Rosin on Tuesday.

By Jon Weisman

It’s coming down to the wire for Seth Rosin, though there’s always the possibility of the wire inching forward.

In other words, a roster decision will have to be made by Sunday afternoon on the 6-foot-6 righthander — unless it doesn’t.

The Dodgers can’t send Rosin to the minors, so when they trim the active roster to 25 players, they will have to carve out a slot for him, make a separate deal with the Philadelphia Phillies to keep him, or lose him. A late trip to the disabled list by a fellow pitcher could buy some time, but that’s an if-and-when.

That leaves a lot to swirl around in the 26-year-old’s head, but checking in with Rosin before Tuesday’s workout, his head seemed to be in the right place.

“I was talking with my good buddy Eric Decker, who was one of my roommates in college, and he said, ‘All you can do is work really hard,'” Rosin said. “Working really hard and busting your butt kind of takes the pressure away. So I’m kind of taking that approach this whole spring, and it’s been working so far.”

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Rosin, who was born 13 days after the Dodgers won their last World Series in 1988. The success he’s had this spring (1.64 ERA, 12 strikeouts against 13 baserunners in 11 innings) would be enough to get anyone excited, but it has come while he’s been in the process of transforming his pitching approach.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt counsels Rosin.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt counsels Rosin.

“Just the timing with my delivery and incorporating my lower half and having a good strong front side — just a lot of the things that pitchers work on,” he said. “I’m just kind of totally reinventing myself with my mechanics this spring, so I’m just going to keep going about that. I think I’m a pretty good listener and pretty coachable, so I’m just trying to take in every piece of knowledge and trying to be a sponge this spring and it’s been helping.

“I know I’m not a finished product, and the coaches will attest to that as well. I’m still working on a couple things that I know once I master those parts, then I think I’ll really be something special. I’m just going to keep going about it every day, and working with (Rick) Honeycutt and (Chuck) Crim and all the other pitchers, just keep working hard.”

Though he appeared in the Thursday exhibition against Team Australia, Rosin was the only pitcher on the 25-man active roster for the first two official games against Arizona that didn’t enter either game, but Rosin is practicing patience.

“I’m just happy that we started off 2-0,” he said. “Yeah, I was looking forward to getting my debut, but hopefully I’ll get a shot this weekend in these exhibition games and hopefully I’ll stick around for games after that. We’ll just have to see. This week’s going to determine a lot for me, so I’m just gonna have to keep working hard and go about my business.”

Rosin knows that however long it takes him to get in to his first Major League game — whenever and wherever that might be — he can’t afford not to be ready.

“There aren’t excuses in this game,” Rosin said. “You’ve got to perform when your name is called, and that’s what I’m going to do my best to do.





Interview: A.J. Ellis readies for next pennant chase

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By Jon Weisman

A.J. Ellis values the offseason, a time when he can focus on family and take a mental break from baseball. It’s been a nice, relaxing winter, and his spirits were the polar opposite of the polar temperatures in Wisconsin when he got on the phone this week.

That’s not to say the Dodger catcher never thought about the 2013 season, or particularly, the way it ended, with a Game 6 loss in the National League Championship Series to St. Louis.

“Those first 10 to 20 days after that last game were really hard,” Ellis said, “the what-ifs and what could have done different, and all the second guessing, just lamenting how close we were.

“You want to get away from it, but if you love the game of baseball as much as I do, you’re sitting there watching the World Series … just knowing you could be on that stage.”

Eventually, November and the ensuing winter brought some distance between the so-close 2013 finish … and the so-possible 2014 title pursuit.

Ellis, who turns 33 in April, is entering his third year as the starting backstop. The years of constantly having to prove himself just to make the team are now firmly in the past. With that, and a personal understanding of how grueling the season can be, brings a change.

“It’s definitely a transition from where I was earlier in my career, even in the last couple years,” Ellis said. “Knowing it’s my third year in a row grinding out 115-plus games behind the plate, (I’m) just kind of mentally and physically preparing for that battle.

“You only have so much you can give mentally and physically each year, and the first year I kind of had a really bad September, a really tough time at the end of the year. I was physically tired, but I actually think I was more mentally tired than anything. I was so caught up in preparing and being on top of the mental side of the game, doing a lot of scouting and video work, I think I was mentally burned out by the time September came.”

Photo by Jon SooHoo/©Los Angeles Dodgers,LLC 2013

A.J. Ellis gets a hand from Michael Young after crossing the plate following his tiebreaking home run in the Dodgers’ division-clinching victory at Arizona on September 19.

As much as you can hear people telling you how beaten down you’ll be if you don’t pace yourself — and Ellis said he heard it over and over again as a younger player from Dodger catching mentors Brad Ausmus and Russell Martin — there was nothing like experiencing it first-hand. You will yourself to do more, but that extra gear isn’t there.

“Everything feels a little bit sluggish,” Ellis said. “Everything feels a little bit heavier. Your work capacity just decreases, your ability to put in that extra time in the weight room, because you’re trying to conserve and conserve and conserve.”

This winter, Ellis has reveled in carpooling his daughter to Kindergarten, participating in his brother’s wedding, watching the entire seven seasons of “The West Wing” (an annual event) and representing the Dodgers (“an honor,” he said) on their offseason goodwill trip to Australia, in preparation for this year’s Opening Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney. Even that provided some valuable family time, with Ellis’ wife Cindy also making the trip, a nice reward for someone who holds down the three-kid fort during the season.

The coming year will pose even more challenges on that front, with school preventing the family from spending as much time in Los Angeles in 2014.

“This year’s gonna be a little harder — they’re gonna be back and forth a lot,” Ellis said. “That’s gonna be a tough transition. I’ve been spoiled to have them with me – it’s gonna be a little bit more of a challenge. I can remember Casey Blake and even Mark Ellis, just being homesick for their kids. It’s my first time really going through that.

“I’m so excited for (my daughter) — she loves school and is having a great time —but selfishly, I’ll miss having her out (in Los Angeles).”

But now that the 2014 season is approaching, Ellis is ready to get ready.

“Once these playoffs start happening in the NFL, it’s time to start cranking up,” the Green Bay Packers fan said. “My mind is turning to baseball. I’m amping up my workouts. Especially when I’m here in Milwaukee and it’s negative 15 degrees out — I’m not exaggerating, either. Checking that Phoenix weather, February 7 can’t get hear soon enough.”

Asked his thoughts about the Dodgers’ offseason, the first thing that came to Ellis’ mind was the return of a certain bearded reliever.

“I think what kind of helped us (in 2013), especially down the stretch and going into the playoffs, was the acquisition of Brian Wilson,” Ellis said. “Having him come back for another year, solidify the back end of our bullpen — it’s such a strength now.”

Ellis knows there’s no magic formula that will automatically make a 2013 bridesmaid into a 2014 champion. You have to at once be a top team as well as one that gets the breaks.

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Last October, the Dodgers saw both sides of that equation — the highs in the National League Division Series against Atlanta, followed by the lows against the Cardinals, kicked off by the first-game, first-inning pitch that roiled Hanley Ramirez’s rib.

Said Ellis: “You ask that question a lot, what if he hadn’t been hurt? (But) injuries are a part of things. We had a chance to overcome it. We gave away some games that maybe we should have won in the series.”

Then came the disappointing Game 6, when the year’s soon-to-be Cy Young Award winner, Clayton Kershaw, was surprisingly mortal.

“There are things that both of us we could have done differently, pitch-selection-wise, pitch-execution-wise,” Ellis said. “We were close. We might have missed a call that might have (minimized the damage). … At the same time, Clayton pitched amazing games for us, and we didn’t score a run for him. He matched up with Michael Wacha a couple of times, and we couldn’t figure out Michael Wacha at all.”

So for all the ups and downs, all the work and fatigue and family separation, Ellis has a vision for 2014. And past experience should only help.

“I know it looked bad the way it ended up, but if I can get in that same situation with Clayton Kershaw going in Game 6, I’ll take my chances,” Ellis said.

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