Cards recall Ellis as veteran bench presence
After start, infielder to settle into part-time role in St. Louis; Kozma optioned
MIILWAUKEE -- Recovered from left knee tendinitis and back from a brief five-inning Triple-A rehab assignment, Mark Ellis found himself thrust into the Cardinals' lineup on Tuesday night. Moving forward, however, he will find himself adapting to a part-time role that he has never before held.
Ellis, whose went 1-for-3 in his appearance with Memphis on Sunday, described the opportunity to start immediately upon coming off the disabled list as "very exciting."
"That's why I'm here," he added. "I'm not here to play rehab games. I'm not here to watch. I'm here to try to help the team win whenever I can and however that might be."
Ellis' role remains somewhat undefined, though the Cardinals seem to have no plans to deviate from their initial intention to give most of the playing time at second base to Kolten Wong. The right-handed hitting Ellis will get spot starts against left-handed starters and will offer the Cardinals a veteran presence off the bench.
Pinch-hitting is a skill Ellis will have to learn, though, as he has just 31 pinch-hit at-bats in the first 12 years of his big league career.
"It's something I've never really done a whole lot, but [I'll] just be ready," Ellis said. "You wish you were 23 years old and able to run out there every day, but the realization is that I need to be ready to be ready to play every day, whether it's to hit in the seventh inning or play defense in the sixth inning or start that day. I'm going to be ready to go. That's what I signed up for. That's what I knew coming in here was probably going to happen. I was ready for that."
Most importantly, Ellis is now healthy. He had to begin the season on the disabled list after patellar tendinitis slowed him in mid-March and then again the final week of Spring Training. He took some time off before he resumed hitting, fielding and strenuous running a week ago. Ellis then headed to Memphis for a rehab assignment that was shortened because of a rainout on Monday.
Though Ellis was unable to play a second Minor League game as scheduled, the Cardinals did not consider keeping him in Triple-A. The Cardinals opened a roster spot for him by optioning infielder Pete Kozma to Memphis.
"We've been excited about [Ellis] getting himself ready and liked the matchup today, too," manager Mike Matheny said. "It's a good opportunity to get Kolten a day and also get Mark going."
As for how playing time will be divided at second base, Matheny said he did not "necessarily have a plan," adding, "we'll take it day-by-day."
The knee ailment did preclude Ellis from getting much defensive work at infield positions besides second this spring, but the Cardinals do consider him an option at third base, if needed. Ellis said he would take ground balls at various spots during batting practice to prepare for the possibility of playing positions less familiar to him.
"I'm glad to be back and feel healthy, feel a lot better than I did a couple weeks ago, even a week ago," Ellis said. "I'm glad to be back and ready to be with the guys and go."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.