Ellis sees immediate benefits from knee surgery

A.J. Ellis to miss a month or more after knee surgery

LOS ANGELES -- Catcher A.J. Ellis walked into the Dodgers' dugout for his media session on Wednesday afternoon without the aid of crutches, a little more than a day after the torn meniscus in his left knee was surgically repaired.

"I've already seen dividends from the surgery," said Ellis, who was hurt trying to score from second on an Andre Ethier hit Saturday against the Giants. "I felt much better this morning than I did yesterday walking into surgery."

Ellis had a similar procedure on the same knee after the 2012 season, so he knows the territory.

'It's something we'd been managing since Spring Training started," he said of the injury. "It wasn't getting better, but it wasn't getting worse."

The worst turn came when he planted to round third base "and felt something in my left knee."

On Sunday, Ellis made the decision "to get it taken care of and get back on the field as soon as I can, as soon as my body lets me.

"It was a similar surgery," Ellis said. "I felt good afterward. I'm excited to get this process going and get back on the field. I'm not going to put a timetable on it yet."

Ellis' prognosis for recovery time is 4-6 weeks. The Dodgers' No. 1 catcher expressed confidence in his replacements, Tim Federowicz and Drew Butera.

"Drew and Fed are really bright guys who do a great job behind the plate and calling games," Ellis said. "I'm just going to be a resource for them."

Manager Don Mattingly said: "Knowing the kind of guy A.J. is, he's going to help them a lot."

Withrow won't be under the radar for long

LAD@CIN: Withrow fans five over two scoreless frames

LOS ANGELES -- Chris Withrow doesn't get mentioned as a closer possibility yet in the deep back end of the Dodgers' bullpen, where Kenley Jansen, Chris Perez, Brian Wilson and Brandon League have done it at the Major League level.

And that's how Withrow likes it, for now. The young Dodgers right-hander said he'd prefer to "sneak up on people."

The way he's begun his second Major League season, though, the secret will get out quick.

"He can and will be a closer once he matures as a Major League pitcher," said bullpen coach Chuck Crim, who was Withrow's pitching coach for his last two years in Double-A. "No question his stuff plays."

As manager Don Mattingly said: "It's back-end, late-in-the-game stuff, pretty much lights out."

In his first five outings, Withrow, 24, has given up one hit and walked one in six innings while striking out nine -- including Sunday's magical seventh against the Giants, when he struck out the side on 10 pitches.

"This is not going to happen every night," Withrow said. "I understand everything is not going to be this easy. But every time I go out there, I'm just trying to execute every pitch."

After starting his first five pro seasons, the Dodgers' 2007 first-round pick was converted to relief in 2012, his third full season at Double-A Chattanooga.

"I feel more comfortable out of the bullpen," Withrow said. "I think my mentality is better from the bullpen."

Crim said Withrow "took to it right away. He's a guy who probably thought too much when he started games. Out of the bullpen, he was able to go out and attack."

Gone are the days when, as a starter, he said he would sometimes try to pace himself and hold something back so he could go deep into games.

Withrow made his big league debut in 2013, striking out 43 in 34 2/3 innings with a 2.60 ERA and a .165 opponents average in 26 games. He got his first save Sept. 3 against Colorado.

Puig takes BP, misses third straight start

SF@LAD: Puig hurts his hand sliding into first

LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig missed his third straight start on Wednesday, but the outfielder is getting closer to returning to the Dodgers' lineup.

Wearing a protective splint on his left thumb, Puig took batting practice on the field with his teammates at Dodger Stadium before they played the Tigers.

"He's improved today," manager Don Mattingly said. "We'll see where's he at. I feel like I'm going to have him more than I did last night."

And that he did. Mattingly sent Puig up to pinch-hit with the bases loaded in the ninth inning and the Dodgers down by two runs. Puig struck out looking on three pitches, but the Dodgers tied it before losing, 7-6, in 10 innings.

After Tuesday's 10-inning Dodgers victory, Mattingly said Puig was only available on an emergency basis, "if the game went on forever, and we needed a hitter." On Sunday, Puig's first miss, he was only available to pinch-run.

Puig said he could hold the bat Tuesday "but it was a bit uncomfortable" with the splint, "but I will adapt."

Worth noting

• Right-handed reliever Brian Wilson, who's had two rehab outings, threw 20 pitches in live BP to teammates Justin Turner and Chone Figgins on Wednesday.

"The ball came out good," Mattingly said. "We'll see how he comes out of that."

Wilson (right ulnar nerve inflammation) is eligible to come off the DL on April 15 and Mattingly said that's a reasonable target date if Wilson doesn't have any setbacks.

• The Dodgers cleared roster room for Wednesday starter Josh Beckett by optioning right-handed reliever Jose Dominguez to Triple-A Albuquerque. Dominguez, 23, had a 12.00 ERA in three outings covering three innings.