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03/02/12 2:52 PM EST

Ellis comfortable as Dodgers' No. 8 hitter

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Catcher A.J. Ellis is aware of the Internet chatter suggesting he might make the best No. 2 hitter in the Dodgers' batting order, but he thinks he's a better fit at No. 8, which is where he's expected to bat this year.

Ellis' .376 career on-base percentage is what catches the eye of number crunchers, figuring he would be on base often for Matt Kemp and the middle of the order to drive in.

Aside from the obvious drawback of clogging up the bases, Ellis cautions that opposing strategy influences the on-base stat for a No. 8 hitter as much as his selective hitter's eye.

"If I'm hitting second, I'm not going to see the same pitches I see hitting eighth," he said. "If Kemp is behind me, I'm going to get peppered with fastballs. They won't be pitching around me. I won't get some of those walks. Sometimes as a catcher batting eighth, they work around you because they feel they have a sure out batting ninth.

"So some of those walks are a product of the pitcher. I love hitting eighth. I take it as a challenge and embrace it. There's a strong mental aspect to it and I feel privileged in that spot. Jamey Carroll hit eighth a lot for us and he taught me a lot.

"Before my first game at Triple-A, Tim Wallach was manager and he called me in and told me I would hit eighth no matter what, because that's where I would hit in the big leagues and it's the most important position. After that, I took pride in it."

Koufax visits Kershaw's bullpen session

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw had a special guest viewing his bullpen session on Friday:

Legendary Cy Young Award winner Sandy Koufax.

Making his first visit of the spring, the lefty watched Kershaw's bullpen session through the windows of the Dodgers' weight room then spent time speaking with Kershaw, who has been compared to Koufax by no less an authority than former Dodgers manager Joe Torre.

"He's awesome," said Kershaw. "We've talked just about every year. I appreciate the time he's spent with me. It's great when he comes around."

The private Koufax then spoke with reporters about Kershaw and the 23-year-old's ceiling.

"How do you make up a ceiling for him?" Koufax said. "It's time -- how long he wants to play, how long he's able to play. As far as talent? No."

Koufax said he followed Kershaw's Cy Young Award-winning season.

"It was a lot of fun," Koufax said. "He's such a good kid. You can't help but root for him."

Koufax has worked or spoken with Kershaw each of the four springs Kershaw has been in camp. Two years ago, they spoke while flying together from Arizona to Los Angeles with Torre for a charity discussion that benefited Torre's Safe At Home Foundation.

"He doesn't seek me out," Koufax said of Kershaw, "but if we're in the same place at the same time, he might ask me something. I have not had a great deal to do with his success -- he has."

Mattingly focused on Dodgers who start slow

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said there will be an emphasis placed on getting off to fast starts for players who traditionally have slow starts.

"We'll try to do what we can do here to get off to a better start," said Mattingly, whose club was 11 games under .500 through July and 24 games over .500 after. "We know Mark Ellis is kind of notorious getting out of the gate slow. We've looked at a lot of guys, at a lot of their at-bats. Juan [Uribe] has been slow, off and on."

Ellis is a .249 career hitter before the All-Star break, .281 after. Juan Rivera is also a notoriously slow starter -- .260 career average before the All-Star break, .292 after.

"We'll get James [Loney, who started slow last year] a lot of at-bats here," said Mattingly. "We'll give Jerry Hairston a lot of at-bats. Especially late [in Spring Training]. We can use them in Minor League games, and they can get extra at-bats."

Mattingly said he'll strike a balance between getting the players ready without overdoing it.

"It doesn't mean everybody will get off to a good start if they're on the disabled list," he said. "We'll try to get them ready without getting [them] hurt."

Dodgers sign two out of tryout camp

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dodgers signed right-hander Blake Johnson and middle infielder Brandon Mims out of Thursday's tryout camp at Camelback Ranch-Glendale.

Johnson, 26, was a second-round Draft pick of the Dodgers in 2004, and he pitched three seasons in the organization before being traded to Kansas City in the Odalis Perez trade. Johnson pitched in the Kansas City and Texas organizations last year at Double-A and Triple-A, and he has never reached the Major Leagues.

Mims, 19, was a ninth-round Draft pick of Toronto in 2010. He signed for $230,000, played only one game of rookie ball in '10 before being released last September after missing the entire season, reportedly for personal issues.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.