PHOENIX -- The Dodgers freed up one roster spot Wednesday, outrighting veteran backup catcher Danny Ardoin to Triple-A.

Ardoin, who spent most of 2008 as Russell Martin's Major League backup after the signing of Gary Bennett didn't work out, cleared waivers. His days as a Dodger were numbered from the signing of veteran Brad Ausmus to be Martin's caddy and mentor.

Ardoin has 10 days to either accept the assignment as the backup to Triple-A catcher A.J. Ellis or declare himself a Minor League free agent.

By becoming a free agent, Ardoin would void his current contract, which calls for a $210,750 Minor League salary, generous by Minor League standards.

"They couldn't tell me how much playing time I would get, but they said I'd be backing up A.J.," said the 34-year-old Ardoin, who is married with four children. "I have some thinking to do. I'll go home and see the kids and get my mind together and figure it out. They said they called every team, but nothing doing. I need to go home and recharge my batteries. I'm glad they did it now before the season started."

As management gave Ellis an extended test to see if he was ready to be Ausmus' heir apparent, Ardoin received almost no spring playing time. He had only nine official at-bats, with four hits, three of them doubles.

Last year after his promotion from Triple-A, Ardoin played in 24 games and hit .235.

The decision doubles as an endorsement for Ellis, long a solid catch-and-throw backstop who emerged with a breakout offensive season last year at Triple-A.

"A.J. has the ability to do things hitting that Danny doesn't have," said manager Joe Torre. "Danny may hit more home runs. Ellis is more of a line-drive hitter all over the field and defensively he's shown us a lot. Danny did a good job, but once we got Ausmus, it put Danny in a situation where he wouldn't be counted on."

The move leaves the Dodgers' 40-man roster at 39 and more moves are expected, as roster spots will be needed for three or four non-roster players expected to make the 25-man Opening Day roster. Among those that might be added are Jeff Weaver, Doug Mientkiewicz and, by April 14, new reliever Will Ohman.