Wisconsin OF Josh Ellison (Photo: Mariners)
Few Mariners fans may recognize the name Josh Ellison, a soft-spoken outfielder recently called up to play at Mid-A Wisconsin. But in his first two weeks with the Timber Rattlers, the 20-year-old has burst on the scene by tearing the cover off the ball and sparking the team's offense. InsidethePark.com's Nick Saeger talked to him one-on-one recently to learn more about his promotion.
Josh Ellison’s desire to take things day by day proved useful last week when with only a moments notice he found himself relocating from sunny Arizona to the stormy Midwest.
Ellison was called up to the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers on Friday, April 30 to replace outfielder Sam Bradford, who was placed on the DL.
Bradford broke his left arm when he crashed into the wall while trying to make a catch the night before. Prior to getting the callup, Ellison had been on the Mariners’ extended spring training roster in Peoria, Ariz.
When he was told the news, the 20-year-old outfielder took the hectic move in stride.
“I was really excited to come here and start working to help this team get on a winning streak, to take this team and push it in the right direction,” Ellison said.
Although he has only been with the team for two weeks, Ellison has already done plenty to work towards that goal.
In 14 games, Ellison is batting .302 with three doubles, a triple and 15 runs scored, and has been on fire since taking over the lead off spot in the batting order. Since joining the team, his presence has helped ignite the Timber Rattlers offense. It didn’t take long for him to step in and make a difference. Ellison reached base in his first at bat in his first four games as the team’s leadoff hitter.
While batting at the top seems to be a good fit for Ellison, he did have to be patient and take the natural course a player takes while moving up in an organization.
Timber Rattlers manager Steve Roadcap eased his new left fielder into the lineup, batting him seventh and ninth in his first two games and sitting him for the second half of a Sunday double header. But Ellison, in the day-to-day mode, stayed patient.
“When you’re called up to a higher level than where you were, nine times out of ten you’re going to hit in the seventh, eighth, or ninth hole no matter who you are or what you’ve done,” Ellison said. “It’s basically for you to get a feel for what’s going on with the pitchers in that league and so that you understand what your role is. But lead off is where I normally hit in the lineup.”
Ellison got his shot at the lead off spot last Tuesday night and took full advantage of the opportunity, lacing a single in the first Timber Rattler at bat of the game. All told, it was strong start to a great night for the team and one of its newest members. The Timber Rattlers defeated their in-state rival Beloit 8-2 and Ellison was 3-4 with a double and three runs.
With Ellison’s insertion in the number one spot, the previous occupant, outfielder Josh Womack, was moved to the number three spot. Womack has been one of the Timber Rattlers top producers on offense this season, leading the team in hits and runs and tied for the lead in doubles and home runs.
Womack and Ellison have been teammates in the organization before and neither was upset by the move.
“We know we’re in competition for the job but we know if we do our part, no matter who the job falls to, we have to do whatever it takes to win,” Ellison said. “Sometimes you’ve got to make adjustments. I’m pretty sure that Womack’s not hating the three hole.”
Drafted in the 11th round in 2001 and signed by M’s scout and current Everett manager Pedro Grifol, Ellison was the MVP of the Peoria Mariners during the 2002 Arizona League season. He moved to the Everett AquaSox last season and proceeded to get off to hot start similar to the one he’s on now. He was 8-16 with four stolen bases and five runs scored in his first four games with the AquaSox.
Given the rare opportunity to manage Ellison after signing him, Grifol came away impressed with the young outfielder after watching him play for a season.
“He’s an extremely good athlete,” said Grifol, who’s been down in Peoria in recent weeks helping coach at extended spring training. “He was raw coming out of high school and hadn’t played much baseball, but I thought with kind of instruction that we give, that he’d have the chance to really improve and become a talented player.”
So far, he’s done just that, making strides in all areas.
Ellison cites his improvement as a lead off hitter as the biggest development in his game since joining the Mariner organization.
“I’m learning more and more how to be a lead off man everyday,” he said. “I’m learning more and more how to be patient at the plate, knowing when to bunt, when not to bunt, knowing when to run, when not to run.
“Basically I’m not only doing what it takes to keep myself in the game for nine innings or whatever it takes but keeping my teammates in the game for nine innings.
He asks himself the same questions each game:
“What can I do today to get myself better?
“Was I better at the plate today than I was yesterday?
“Did I play better defense than I did the day before?”
The fact that Ellison was not with the Timber Rattlers to start the season was a surprise, according to Womack, but he has definitely earned his spot. Nothing has been reported on how long Bradford will be out so even with his stellar performance thus far Ellison’s future with the team is uncertain. While that may be an issue for some people, Josh Ellison is just looking forward to his next game, taking it one day at a time.