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PHOENIX -- Dodgers catcher Russell Martin has a pulled groin muscle and will be sidelined four to six weeks, missing the rest of Spring Training and Opening Day, manager Joe Torre said on Sunday.
Martin will be sent to Los Angeles for further medical exams to confirm the initial diagnosis Dr. Neal ElAttrache made after a Saturday MRI.
Torre said rookie A.J. Ellis would "get the bulk of the playing time here," with 40-year-old Brad Ausmus remaining as the backup.
"Ausmus brings a lot to the table with his experience, but I certainly don't want to run him into the ground either," said Torre.
Torre said he had not discussed going outside the organization for a replacement.
"To find a catcher better than A.J. would be tough to do," he said. "He's a pretty good catcher."
Martin said his offseason conditioning program, which added 25 pounds of muscle, was not the reason he was injured. General manager Ned Colletti indicated that the club has only limited control over players and their winter workouts.
"The way he came into camp, we can't tell anybody what's best for them," Colletti said. "They have to decide that on their own. Obviously, he decided to come in in the condition he did. We had communication with him throughout the winter and then it went cold for a little bit of time.
"He knows what's at stake. He's not somebody who doesn't understand what we're trying to do here, nor what he's trying to do personally in his career. I'm sure he's not very happy with what happened yesterday either. It's one of those things, guys get hurt all the time."
Martin said he hasn't completely accepted the fact that he'll miss Opening Day.
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"My goal is to not miss one game," he said. "If my body feels ready and they tell me not yet, we'll have to see. They gave me a time frame. If I keep bugging them, maybe then I'll get it down. Odds are it won't work. You'd rather be safe than sorry. One thing I have to understand, even though I don't like it, it's what I have to do."
Martin, 27, initially said he had "a slight strain" in the right side of his lower abdomen, but the details revealed by Torre indicated a more serious injury.
"I was a little bit shocked," Martin said after hearing the prognosis. "It's not an injury where there's a lot of pain to it, but something that nags at you and if you don't take care of it, it gets worse. They're going on the cautious side so you don't have to worry about it."
Martin said when he went from first to third in a baserunning drill earlier in the week, "something felt weird, a tweak or something, but I didn't think much of it."
In Friday's Spring Training opener, Martin caught five innings and stole a base. It was on the steal that Martin said, "The first couple steps, I knew it wasn't right."
After the game, Martin reported to the staff that something was wrong and the MRI exam was scheduled. Trainer Stan Conte said Martin will be sent to the Kerlan-Jobe clinic in Los Angeles on Monday for further tests and treatment that might include a more revealing MRI using a dye injection or the now-popular platelet injection that accelerates healing.
Martin said the injury doesn't bother him hitting or squatting, only when running. His discomfort is in the same general area that plagued former Dodgers infielder Tony Abreu, who first underwent a sports hernia operation, but ultimately needed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn hip labrum.
But Conte said the injuries are different, explaining Martin has a strained adductor, which is part of the hip flexor group of muscles. Martin said he feels the discomfort on initial explosion and at the top of his stride.
"Russell wants to play through pain and that's worked for him in the past, but it won't work with this particular injury."
-- Stan Conte, |
Martin will continue workouts that don't involve the injured area, and that might include taking batting practice without striding, Torre said. But Conte said the biggest obstacle in Martin's recovery could be Martin's aggressive approach, because the only true treatment is complete rest of the involved area.
"Russell wants to play through pain and that's worked for him in the past, but it won't work with this particular injury," Conte said. "This can be a very devastating injury. You can't rest while you're playing. You use that muscle every time you move and it's difficult to heal. It's a very deep muscle."
Martin, who said he's never had a groin strain, agreed that rest is the toughest medicine to take.
"Especially for me," he said. "I know myself. As soon as it feels good, I'll want to jump out there and have fun. They've seen this type of thing before and made the mistake and lost ground and it's back to square one. I don't want that to happen. But it will be extremely tough for me, I know that."
Martin, who caught more innings than any catcher in the Major Leagues last year, reported to Spring Training after going through a rigorous offseason regimen designed to make him stronger.
"I haven't lost any flexibility," Martin said when asked if the added muscle was a factor in the injury. "I have to stretch or I get tight, and I don't want to be and I'm not."
A two-time All-Star who won a Silver Slugger and Gold Glove in 2007, Martin's offensive production has slipped the past two seasons. Last year, he hit .250 with seven homers and 53 RBIs, not hitting his first homer until June 20. In 2007 he hit .293 with 19 homers and 87 RBIs.
One trademark of Martin's career is durability. He is averaging 150 games played over the past three years, when he has led all Major League catchers with 414 starts and 3,693 innings caught.