GLENDALE, Ariz. — Tim Federowicz may have been playing it coy, or he might simply not have known early Tuesday morning that his 2013 season would begin in Los Angeles instead of Albuquerque.
The former Isotopes catcher was asked if Monday's moves — Ramon Castro was released and Wilkin Castillo was reassigned to minor-league camp — was moving him closer to sewing up the Dodgers' backup job.
"I'm confident but it's still going to be a wait-and-see till the last day, so we'll see where it goes," Federowicz said.
Shortly after the clubhouse doors closed to the media, the Dodgers announced that Federowicz's last remaining competition for the backup job, Jesus Flores, had also been reassigned to the minors. While it is not official until the final 25-man roster is set at the end of the month, for all intents and purposes Federowicz will be playing in Dodger blue this season.
"It's what he's been doing the last two years, it's kind of showed us he didn't belong in Triple-A anymore," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "So I think from that standpoint we're comfortable with where he's at and where he's going."
Federowicz only received three at-bats in a September call-up last season with the Dodgers. This spring he has seen a great deal more time behind the plate with the big-league squad.
"It's going great, I'm starting games this year, rather than backing up," Federowicz said. "I'm kind of just feeling like part of the team. I've been catching all the big-league pitchers. I've caught everyone at this point, so now it's about getting ready for the season."
A big part of Federowicz's progression this spring has come with his ability to drive the ball up the middle and the other way more often, as opposed to constantly pulling the ball as he first did when he arrived with the Isotopes following a trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox in 2011.
"I've made a couple of adjustments, trying to find that happy medium with my swing right now," Federowicz said. "It's getting there, it's very close. I'm feeling a lot better."
Overall, Federowicz hit .296/.372/.467 with 11 home runs and 76 RBI last year with Albuquerque, though he did most of his damage (.342/.404/.558) at home while scuffling somewhat (.243/.321/.362) on the road. Mattingly said the Dodgers have seen improvement in Federowicz's ability to hit to all fields this spring.
"We think he has, but we always have been going back to we're asking guys to catch and call games, so that's our main thing," Mattingly said. "Fed is obviously a good thrower, good blocker. We feel like he's that perfect guy right now.
"You're always going to want offense. We've talked about defense, calling games, doing the right thing, but you'd always like to get offense. Our number one priority is defense and being able to handle a pitching staff."
Federowicz should see more playing time than last year's Dodgers backup, Matt Treanor, due to Mattingly's desire to give Ellis extra days off to keep him fresh down the stretch. Ellis hit .285/.404/.425 in the first half but just .252/.336/.401 after the All-Star break.
"(Ellis was) just tired, it's more the mental getting worn down than it is physically," Mattingly said. "Physically you take a beating back there, it comes with the position. Just mentally you see stuff that this guy needed more days off."
Mattingly would not say how many times a week Federowicz might start, though twice a week is possible depending on how off-days pop up on the schedule.
Federowicz said his increased playing time this spring should have him ready to go when the regular season begins April 1.
"It's really fun to catch these guys especially now that we're starting to get into the routine to get ready for the season," he said.
With Federowicz moving up, that leaves veterans Castillo and Flores in line to be the Isotopes' starting catcher this season. Matt Wallach, who played at Double-A Chattanooga last year, is also in the mix.