LOS ANGELES -- It will take a campaign because name recognition isn't there yet, but A.J. Ellis is playing like an All-Star so far in his first season as a starter.
The 31-year-old Dodgers catcher is doing it on both sides of the plate. He's hitting .317, reached base in 23 consecutive games, is third in the Majors with a .462 on-base percentage and is hitting .385 with runners in scoring position. Ellis has a .974 OPS, best among National League catchers.
"To be honest, I didn't think A.J. would be lighting it up offensively," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's really swinging the bat well. We expected the defense, the way he's handled the staff, all the preparation. What we're getting offensively, honestly, is more than I thought."
Ellis also has thrown out 42.3 percent of potential basestealers, second in the league.
Yadier Molina of the Cardinals and Brian McCann of the Braves are the most logical picks for the first two catching spots on the All-Star team. Molina is a three-time All-Star, McCann a six-timer, both playing for first-place teams.
To be the third catcher, Ellis most likely will need to beat out Philadelphia's Carlos Ruiz and Arizona's Miguel Montero.
Kemp goes on DL, games-played streak ends
LOS ANGELES -- Ironman outfielder Matt Kemp was finally convinced to go on the 15-day disabled list by the Dodgers, who announced the move after Kemp did not play in Monday night's 3-1 win over the D-backs.
By sitting out the game, Kemp's consecutive games-played streak, the longest among active players, was snapped at 399. He last missed a game Aug. 18, 2009. The Tigers' Prince Fielder is the new active leader with 216 consecutive games, followed by the Reds' Joey Votto (161), Boston's Dustin Pedroia (135) and the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki (135).
"They had to talk me into it a little bit," said Kemp, who has a mild strain of the left hamstring. "I was going crazy today watching my teammates play."
The only other time Kemp was disabled was in 2007, when he suffered a slight shoulder separation running into the new out-of-town scoreboard in right field.
Struggling Jerry Sands was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque to replace Kemp on the roster.
"I'm very disappointed," Kemp said. "Hamstrings are a little bit iffy. I'll take the time and hope to get back to running fast. I like to play every day. But I've got to play at 100 percent to be effective."
He admitted he's been playing at half-speed since injuring the leg last Saturday in Chicago. He reinjured it trying to leg out a ground ball Sunday and was removed from the game.
"I've been a little scared to do certain things," he said. "I felt it in there a little bit. I just wanted to help my team any way possible, but I was babying it a little. I came to that realization."
Manager Don Mattingly said the decision was made before Monday night's game. But with Juan Uribe sent to the DL and his replacement, Elian Herrera, in transit, the shorthanded Dodgers kept Kemp active.
"It's the right thing to do," Mattingly said of the roster move. "We found out Matt wasn't giving us the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so we did this to protect him from himself. He wants to play and we want that, but we have to be sure this doesn't turn into a long-term injury. We've got to get this healed up so it doesn't last all year long.
"I think he was OK when he came to the realization. We're not going to replace Matt. We won't be as good a club with Matt not there, but we need to be able to sustain in the short term."
Mattingly said Tony Gwynn will be Kemp's primary replacement in center field, but Andre Ethier also might get a few starts in center with Sands playing right. Ethier said Mattingly asked if he could play center field.
"He must not remember the All-Star Game two years ago [which Ethier started in center field]," he said. "I can do it. Just go out and take charge and read the ball and track it down and catch it. I'm not saying it's easy, but it's certainly something I'm willing to undertake.
"We know there will be a hole left without Matt in the lineup, but you can't sit there and sulk about it. For two weeks when he's out we hope we can get on a good streak until he comes back full strength."
Sands was hitting .257 and ranked second on Albuquerque with seven home runs while leading the Isotopes in RBIs (28) and runs scored (27). The 24-year-old had five hits (5-for-7) with three homers and four RBIs in his last two games prior to his callup. Sands made his Major League debut in 2011 and hit .253 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 61 games for Los Angeles last year.
Dodgers send Uribe to DL with wrist soreness
LOS ANGELES -- The sudden wave of Dodgers injuries continued Monday when they had to put third baseman Juan Uribe on the 15-day disabled list with recurring left wrist soreness.
The Dodgers replaced him by purchasing the contract of Triple-A Albuquerque utility man Elian Herrera and designating outfielder Trent Oeltjen for assignment.
Uribe was scheduled to undergo an MRI to determine if the wrist requires rest or something more aggressive like surgery.
Uribe has been bothered by the wrist problem for a month. It responded well to an injection, but was irritated again during batting practice in Colorado two weeks ago and again before his pinch-hitting appearance Sunday.
"After the shot they said it could come back, and if it does it would mean more testing," manager Don Mattingly said. "To go farther would be guessing. We're hoping it's short term. Now it hurts all over the wrist. It was just on the side. Now he's feeling pain all over.
"He's been playing well. We're a better lineup with him in there."
Adam Kennedy replaced Uribe in Monday night's lineup. Mattingly mentioned Herrera and Justin Sellers as possible replacents.
At Albuquerque are veteran third basemen Josh Fields and Jeff Baisley, but neither are on the 40-man roster.
The contract purchase of Herrera -- a 27-year-old switch-hitter -- is another sign of the organization's lack of top position prospects.
He was originally signed by the Dodgers out of the Dominican Republic in 2003, didn't reach Double-A until his eighth professional season and has never been protected on the 40-man roster. But he has been Albuquerque's primary leadoff hitter this year, batting .358 overall and .404 against left-handed pitching.
The promotion leaps Herrera, who was not expected to be in uniform until around 8:30 p.m. PT, over four position players at Triple-A that are on the 40-man roster and have Major League experience -- Matt Angle, Ivan DeJesus Jr., Oeltjen and Jerry Sands. That list excludes catcher Tim Federowicz, who is ranked by MLB.com as the team's No. 14 prospect.
Mattingly said he's familiar with Herrera from the Minor League games he appeared in for the Dodgers.
"Every time he got hits," he said. "I've looked at the Minor League reports. He's played, center, right, left, second, short and third. He's been good everywhere. Manny Mota told me in the spring to get Herrera over here, that he was leading off in the Dominican and played really good."
Gibson declines offer to catch Orel's first pitch
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are honoring legend Orel Hershiser on Tuesday night.
The team will be giving away bobbleheads in the likeness of the former Dodgers right-hander, and he will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
Hershiser apparently asked D-backs manager Kirk Gibson, who was a teammate of Hershiser's on the 1988 World Series-winning Dodgers, to catch the pitch.
Gibson, who hit the game-winning homer in Game 1 of the World Series, said he politely declined.
"I'm a Diamondback," Gibson said. "I'm the manager of the team. I respect Orel tremendously. He knows that. It's not disrespect towards him. If I was out of baseball I would have done it, but I'm in baseball and I've got different colors on tonight and tomorrow."
The Dodgers will honor Gibson on July 31 with a Gibson bobblehead giveaway. The D-backs are scheduled to be in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers that night.