Ellis fitting in among familiar Marlins faces

Veteran catcher also providing guidance for Realmuto

Ellis fitting in among familiar Marlins faces

JUPITER, Fla. -- A.J. Ellis may be a newcomer to the Marlins, but the veteran catcher is certainly no stranger to the organization.

Coming up through the Dodgers' system, Ellis previously played for Miami manager Don Mattingly, formerly his hitting coach and manager in Los Angeles. He's also been coached and managed at the big league and Minor League levels by bench coach Tim Wallach and outfield coach Lorenzo Bundy. Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon also is a former teammate of Ellis in Los Angeles.

Having so much familiarity swayed Ellis to sign as a free agent with the Marlins in December.

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"It was probably the biggest separator," Ellis said. "That relationship is huge. This game is based on relationships. That relationship kind of pushed things over the edge as I was making my decision. Knowing the trust I have in them, knowing the trust they have in me. They wanted me here, too. That meant a lot."

The Marlins coveted Ellis, who played with the Dodgers and Phillies in 2016, after Jeff Mathis signed as a free agent with the D-backs. Mathis was a team leader and one of the most respected players on the roster. Much of what is said about Mathis pertains to Ellis.

The 35-year-old Ellis is entering his 10th big league season, and the Marlins felt he was an ideal choice to back up J.T. Realmuto, one of the promising young catchers in the game. In Mattingly, Ellis sees a manager primed to take the Marlins to the next level.

"Two words [that] stick out with me are his humility and his consistency," Ellis said. "Those two things are what separate him as being that guy you can count on. That guy you want to play for, and you want to succeed for.

"I always joke that young ballplayers probably don't understand that in the mid-80s, this was the best player in our sport. He never carries himself that way. He's all about us. He never talks about what he did. … That humility and consistency makes him the manager I want to play for."

Ellis is a career .239/.340/.351 hitter with 37 home runs and 200 RBIs, and he brings postseason experience.

"I think he has that reputation as being a guy that studies, and it's really all about the pitchers," Mattingly said. "He's had a pretty good run of being in the postseason, and all of that."

Aside from his offensive contributions, the organization envisions Ellis being a veteran to help continue the maturation of Realmuto behind the plate. It's a role Ellis embraces.

"Just the amount of respect he has in this clubhouse," Ellis said of Realmuto. "The way carries himself. Just a quiet confidence. This is a guy who is on the verge of becoming a superstar player in our sport, and a superstar two-way catcher, which there aren't many of those guys left in the game."

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.