2011 Dodgers Spring Training Preview: Catchers, As L.A. Moves On From Russell Martin

Now that Dodgers position players have reported to spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, today marks the first full squad workout for the team. Pitchers and catchers reported last week, and the Dodgers have 59 of their 60 players in big league camp, with relief pitcher Ronald Belisario as the only one yet to report. Our 2011 Dodgers spring training preview turns its attention to catchers, as the team tries to move on from the Russell Martin era.

Martin was the starting catcher for the Dodgers for the last five seasons, but a serious hip injury combined with declining production from the two-time All-Star led to his dismissal this winter. The Dodgers decided to non-tender Martin in December, as he likely would have commanded between $5-6 million in salary arbitration. Martin ended up signing a free agent contract with the Yankees for $4 million in guaranteed money. Here is a look at the catchers the Dodgers chose to replace Martin: 

Rod Barajas: The backstop was born in nearby Ontario and went to Cerritos Junior College, and was claimed off waivers from the Mets last August. Barajas parlayed a hot six weeks as a Dodger (he hit .297/.361/.578 with five home runs in 25 games) into a $3.25 million deal to be the primary catcher for the Dodgers. However, Barajas for all of 2010 hit .240/.284/.447 and for his career has hit .239/.284/.412. The Dodgers are paying the 35-year old the highest salary of his major league career.

Dioner_navarro_2006_andy_lyonsgetty_images_medium Dioner Navarro: Navarro was a Dodger in 2005, and began 2006 as the starting catcher, but a wrist injury to Navarro opened the door for Martin to step in and take the reigns. Navarro, like Martin, was an All-Star in 2008, but as a member of the Tampa Bay Rays. Like Martin, Navarro has slumped since 2008, but Navarro has fallen off a cliff. Navarro hit just .212/.263/.306 in the last two seasons, spent time in the minors in 2010, and hastened his exit from Tampa by leaving the team after getting left of last year's playoff roster. Still just 27, there is a chance for a rebound from Navarro, but the Dodgers are paying $1 million for that chance.

A.J. Ellis: The soon-to-be 30-year old is more known for his defense, though he does have a career .398 on-base percentage in the minor leagues. Light on power -- Ellis has 17 home runs in eight minor league seasons -- Ellis has spent part of the last three seasons with the Dodgers. Ellis ended last season on fire, reaching base in 27 of his final 49 plate appearances over the final month, but he figures to start this season in Triple A, again. Such is the life of a baseball player with a minor league option remaining.

Also on 40-man roster: Hector Gimenez

Non-roster invitees: JD Closser, Damaso Espino

For more Dodgers spring training news and information, be sure to read True Blue LA.

Photo: Andy Lyons | Getty Images

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