By Thom Henninger
Another rookie pitcher who has seemingly come out of nowhere and excelled is the Dodgers’ John Ely. The truth is, the 24-year-old right-hander came from Chicago, acquired from the White Sox as part of the trade that shipped veteran outfield Juan Pierre to Los Angeles in mid-December.
Ely was expected to spend most of the 2010 season in Albuquerque, testing his stuff against Triple-A hitters, but instead, he makes his eighth major league start today at Dodger Stadium.
In 2009, in just his third pro season, Ely led the Double-A Southern League in wins and strikeouts, going 14-2 with a 2.82 ERA in 27 starts for Birmingham. He didn’t start the 2010 season on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster, but got the call after the Dodgers released Russ Ortiz and Vicente Padilla went on the disabled list in late April.
Ely, who doesn’t throw especially hard but has an excellent changeup, has been terrific after a rough big league debut against the Mets on April 28. He allowed five runs over six innings in New York, but since that loss, he has worked six consecutive quality starts and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in any of them. He takes the mound Sunday with a 3-2 record and a 2.54 ERA. He has yet to allow a home run in 46 innings, the most innings worked among all major leaguers who have yet to give up a longball.
If Ely continues to shut down opponents, he is just a start or two from jumping onto the ERA leader board in the National League. The rookie also would rank among the best in the game in strikeout-walk ratio. With 37 strikeouts and eight walks, his 4.63 ratio currently ranks fifth in the majors among all starters who have worked 46 innings — his innings-pitched total going into Sunday’s start. Not surprisingly, no other rookie starter can match that 4.63 ratio.
Ely faces a stiff test Sunday with Atlanta at Dodger Stadium. The Braves are on a 15-3 surge and have stormed to the top of the National League East.
If there’s a sign the rookie right-hander will continue to succeed, it’s probably that he had his best start yet his last time out. On Tuesday, he blanked the Diamondbacks on two hits over seven innings, though the Dodgers failed to score a run for him and eked out a 1-0 win in 10 innings. He took his only other loss in his previous start, but allowed just a single run over 7.1 innings of a 1-0 defeat.