John Ely. He never really was going to get a chance with the Dodgers, was he? We’ve seen many promising and or respectable minor league level pitchers come and go recently. Dana Eveland, once the “ace” of Albuquerque, was traded to the Orioles and now is set to pitch overseas. Nathan Eovaldi was traded to Miami in exchange for Hanley Ramirez. Rubby De La Rosa was traded away to the Red Sox in the mega deal this past summer which brought over Adrian Gonzalez and friends, and now John Ely has been dealt to Houston in exchange for a southpaw pitching prospect and UCLA alum by the name of Rob Rasmussen. You see, unless your name is Clayton Kershaw, you will have an uphill battle breaking into the Dodgers’ starting rotation. The Dodgers seem to favor veteran type starters, hence the Joe Blanton debacle. There was no way that Stephen Fife was going to be allowed more than a few spot starts last season.
John Ely was one of those players who actually caught my eye, and I’m a bit saddened to see him go. Albeit, it may be better for him in the long run in Houston since he will be vying for a starting spot out of Spring Training and very well could make their Opening Day roster. Yet I still wonder what could have been…
I wrote about John Ely-The Man, The Myth, The Legend back in February, and I brought up his
I Wonder if Matthew McConaughey Can Pitch?
uncertain future with the Dodgers organization. It seemed like that brief period of “Elymania” when he was first called up in 2010 was beginning to fade as his subsequent call-ups after that promising debut fell short of expectations. The Illinois native never rebounded like we had hoped, and here we are bidding the Matthew McConaughey look-alike farewell. John Ely was very fun to watch pitch, and his jerky delivery and quirky superstitious routines on the field are entertaining at the least. I saw Ely pitch live on May 22, 2010 at Dodger Stadium versus the Detroit Tigers. The Dodgers and Ely picked up the win by defeating Detroit 6-4. This was smack in the middle of Elymania, which spiraled disappointingly downhill after the glowing start. Ely made his MLB debut with the Dodgers on April 28, 2010, starting his first game against the New York Mets. He allowed five runs in 6 innings during his debut. On May 6, his second start, he allowed just 4 hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings vs. the Brewers. Ely went on to win his first game on May 11, 2010 when he allowed only two runs, 6 hits, and no walks while striking out six batter in six innings against the D-backs. On May 22, Ely picked up his third straight victory, but Elymania came to a fast grinding halt. After winning 3 of his first 4 decisions, he then lost 9 of 10 during the remainder of the season. He finished the 2010 season with a 4-10 record and an ERA of 5.49 in 18 games started and 100 innings pitched. He allowed 12 homeruns while striking out 76 and walking 40 batters. He began to pitch wildly and walked 14 batters during his final three starts of the season. This decline was a stark contrast to his amazing start. He was the first pitcher to have three starts of at least 6 innings with no walks out of his first four of his career since Ross Grimsley in 1971. Ely went 89 consecutive batters without a walk.
My John Ely autograph. Photo: Stacie Wheeler
In 2011, Ely only pitched 12 2/3 innings for the Dodgers making one lone start when Jon Garland was forced to pitch a rehab game. He didn’t fare very well in AAA that year either. With a 7-8 record and 5.99 ERA over 25 starts as an Isotope, it looked like Ely had really took a step backwards. Then last season, John Ely created a little Elymania for himself over in Albuquerque. In his 27 starts, he went 14-7 with a 3.20 ERA over 168 2/3 innings pitched. He struck out 165 batters while walking only 36. Those numbers gave Ely the pitching triple crown and Pitcher of the Year honors for the Pacific League. In 2012, Ely played in just 2 fateful games for the Dodgers. He wound up with a 0-2 record and an ERA of 20.25 in those ugly 2.2 innings.
John Ely’s inconsistencies eventually held him back from breaking through to the big club. The
Thanks for the memories, John Ely. Photo: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Astros will get a viable starting pitcher with Ely who excelled in AAA last season and has pitched in 25 Major League games over the past three seasons with the Dodgers. The Dodgers will receive a young left-handed starter with Rasmussen, and the trade will also open up a spot on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster.
Good luck, John Ely.