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07/17/10 12:43 AM ET

Back woes familiar for Dodgers' Johnson

Outfielder expects to return from DL when he is eligible

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers outfielder Reed Johnson said the injury that put him on the 15-day disabled list Thursday is a recurring aftereffect from 2007 disk surgery, and he expects to return in the minimum amount of time.

"It's similar to the post-surgery muscle spasms I have had in the past," Johnson said. "There's no involvement down the legs, which is the first thing they ask you. There's no nerve issue, which is good for me. In the past, it didn't take the full 15 days. I'd play a few [rehab] games and be back on the field the day I can come off.

"We're in a situation where we all knew I didn't need the full 15 days, but I had a head start missing six days, and with the All-Star break it made sense rather than go out there with lingering pain that gets worse."

Johnson spent stints on the disabled list in 2008 and 2009 with a similar problem. This time, he said, he first felt it in a game against the Yankees advancing to third base on a Clayton Kershaw bunt and it worsened while making a quick turn in a game against the Cubs last week.

He said he would like to play in a couple Minor League rehab games next week in the California League before being activated. He is eligible to return a week from Saturday, but is not scheduled to resume baseball activities until this weekend.

"My back always has done better when I'm on the field more," he said. "I get into a situation when I don't play for five or six days, then I play for one or two and that's probably tougher on my body. I need to recognize that and make sure I get simulated activity, like sprinting with my spikes on."

Injuries force Dodgers to pull Manny, Martin

ST. LOUIS -- The Dodgers lost their first game after the All-Star break Thursday night, but all they lost was a game.

It got worse Friday night, when in addition to losing to the Cardinals, 8-4, they also lost outfielder Manny Ramirez and catcher Russell Martin with injuries.

Ramirez, one day after returning from the disabled list with a right hamstring injury, came out of the game after one-half inning with a tight right calf muscle, the same injury that put him on the disabled list in April.

Martin was removed after wincing in an eighth-inning at-bat from a swollen thumb he originally injured two weeks ago catching a pitch in Arizona that he recalled gave him a "stinging sensation" and had not bothered him swinging the bat until Friday night.

Ramirez will be re-evaluated Saturday, but at 38, he's already been on the DL twice this year after being on the DL only twice his entire career. He's still not speaking to reporters and left the clubhouse before the media arrived.

"We'll find out tomorrow," said Joe Torre, Dodgers manager and Ramirez's spokesman. "He felt it loosening up before the game and put a [therapeutic] sock on it to hold it and didn't think much of it. When he went back out to the outfield, it got tight and he came out."

Ramirez walked with two outs in the top of the first inning and ran the bases full speed when Casey Blake popped out to end the inning.

Torre said he noticed Martin wince on a swing and took him out after taking a called third strike in the eighth inning for his second strikeout. He said Martin never had taken treatment on the thumb. As a former catcher, Torre said it's "not unusual" for catchers to have left thumb injuries, especially with sinkerball pitchers.

Martin, as usual, downplayed the severity of the injury.

"I don't think it's necessary," he said of a possible Saturday X-ray of the thumb, which he was icing. "If they do, we'll get it done. It's definitely not broken. If anything, a ligament flared up or something like that. They have to knock me out before they put me on the disabled list."

Martin said he's felt occasional discomfort catching pitches, but this was the first time he felt it hitting.

"It's frustrating," he said. "You see pitches you want to drive and you miss it and wonder why you miss a pitch you ought to hit. It builds character. Maybe I'll hold the bat looser and it'll make me better. I'm not a wimp. I'm not too worried about it. I've had this before. I guess every time is different. [Resting] during the All-Star break didn't seem to do anything. I don't mind playing banged up. It's part of the job. I'm sure Joe had his share. Being a catcher, it happens."

Xavier Paul took over for Ramirez and went 1-for-4 with a double. A.J. Ellis caught the bottom of the eighth.

Torre said disabled backup catcher Brad Ausmus caught one inning Friday night in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Albuquerque, will do that again Saturday and is scheduled to catch all nine innings for Albuquerque on Sunday. He will return to Los Angeles and a decision will be made on when he'll be activated. He is recovering from April back surgery.

Torre sticking to platoon at second base

ST. LOUIS -- The second half has started with Dodgers manager Joe Torre sticking to a platoon at second base, with left-handed-hitting Blake DeWitt starting against Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter on Thursday night and right-handed-hitting Jamey Carroll starting against left-hander Jaime Garcia on Friday night.

"I guess I'll be doing that most of the time," said Torre. "That's not to say I'll do it all the time. As long as Jamey is doing the job he's done and we feel Blake will get a lot more playing time there. I just want [DeWitt] to be the second baseman."

DeWitt is batting .280 against righties and .222 against lefties. Carroll is batting .302 against righties and .260 against lefties. Overall, DeWitt is hitting .270, Carroll .291.

The versatile Carroll was signed to be a bench player, while management wanted to give DeWitt a full-year test after essentially wasting his 2009 season shuttling him between Los Angeles and Triple-A Albuquerque six times. Carroll also is the primary backup to shortstop Rafael Furcal.

McDonald on track to start Monday for LA

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre still wasn't ready to name James McDonald his Monday night starter, but McDonald was scratched from his scheduled start Friday night for Triple-A Albuquerque and replaced by Charlie Haeger.

McDonald, who recently returned to action after recovering from a strained hamstring, will be making his first Major League appearance this year.

"Nobody has told me it's official," said Torre, "but chances are pretty good he'll be the starter on Monday.

McDonald has developed a slider that has been credited for his recent improvement.

Gift from Musial is music to Torre's ears

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers manager Joe Torre turns 70 on Sunday and he received an early birthday present Friday during a visit with Cardinals legend Stan Musial.

"Look at this," Torre said, pulling out his phone to display a video of Musial playing "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" on his harmonica.

"It was very heartwarming. I try to see him every time I'm here. He'll be 90 in November. He was good, he seems to be feeling better this year than last year. He was very aware of us being here for the series."

Torre never was a teammate of Musial, but said the two often had early dinner with their wives when Torre managed the Cardinals from 1990-95.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.