LOS ANGELES -- Ramon Hernandez is in his 15th season in the Major Leagues, and the Dodgers' newly acquired catcher believes this club has the potential to be his best team yet.
Hernandez, 36, joined the club prior to Sunday's series finale against the Pirates. The Dodgers traded right-hander Aaron Harang and cash to the Rockies in exchange for Hernandez on Saturday.
"I want to say this is one of the best teams I've been on my whole career, besides maybe the A's when I was young," said Hernandez, a career .264 hitter who debuted with Oakland in 1999. "There's a lot of star potential on this team."
Hernandez will back up A.J. Ellis and is excited to work with a pitching staff that leads the Majors with a 0.80 ERA entering Sunday's action.
"This is one of the greatest pitching staffs in the whole Major Leagues," Hernandez said.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he expects to play Hernandez a "couple times" each week to keep Ellis fresh.
"A.J. is our guy. Ramon's here to give us experience, give us some depth," Mattingly said. "He's been a good player for a long time. We still think he's got something left."
For now, the Dodgers have three catchers in Ellis, Hernandez and rookie Tim Federowicz, who made his first start of the season Sunday. The Dodgers won't carry three catchers for an extended period, though, and Federowicz is likely to be optioned to the Minor Leagues this week.
Federowicz makes first start, likely odd man out
LOS ANGELES -- Rookie catcher Tim Federowicz was thrilled to be on the Opening Day roster for the Dodgers and made his first start of the season on Sunday, but he appears likely to be optioned to the Minor Leagues this week following the club's acquisition of veteran Ramon Hernandez.
The Dodgers are stacked with three catchers after trading right-hander Aaron Harang and cash to the Rockies for Hernandez on Saturday. A.J. Ellis remains the primary catcher, Hernandez will be a back up and Federowicz appears to be the odd man out. Manager Don Mattingly said Sunday the club would not carry three catchers for an extended period.
The Dodgers expect to activate right-hander Chad Billingsley from the disabled list on Wednesday to start at San Diego and will likely option Federowicz to open a roster spot.
As Saturday's trade was in the works, the Dodgers discussed its potential impact on the psyche of Federowicz.
"It's one of the areas that was probably one of the biggest concerns with this deal," Mattingly said before Sunday's series finale against the Pirates. "We don't want to crush the kid. We think he's going to be really good. It becomes a matter of making sure we have conversations where he knows where he fits, where he's not just out there on an island guessing how we feel about him. We need to make sure he knows how we feel about him, what we think, give him our reasoning and our thinking for our club for the whole and you go from there."
So how do the Dodgers feel about Federowicz?
"Everybody likes Fed and the things he can do as a catcher," Mattingly said. "We think he's going to develop offensively. We think he's really smart. We feel like he fits right in. We're going to do what's best for him and best for the organization in the long run."
Mattingly gives Cruz day off after difficult start to season
LOS ANGELES -- Luis Cruz was out of the Dodgers lineup Sunday for the first time this season as manager Don Mattingly hopes a day off will do some good for the hitless third baseman.
Cruz is 0-for-17 in five starts to open the year. He said he's been "jumpy" at the plate, but understands there is plenty of time to turn things around.
"It's early still. We still have a lot of games. I think I'm going to be fine," Cruz said. "I feel good, strong, I just need to get my timing down."
Juan Uribe made the start at third base in Sunday's series finale against the Pirates, and Mattingly said he believes Cruz simply needs to be a spectator for one game.
"There's always going to be a period of the season when you hit one of these spells. Luis is just having it right now right out of the gate, and then that kind of builds on you," Mattingly said before the game. "It kind of wears on you. Mentally, he needs to be able to put that behind him because you can't change anything that's happened in the first five games of the season. He needs a day to sit there and watch."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.