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Dodgers' Martin out with pulled groin

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Dodgers catcher Russell Martin is expected to miss opening day after an MRI revealed a pulled groin.

Martin first felt discomfort during a running drill a few days before the Dodgers' first spring game Friday. He started Friday's game against the White Sox and played five innings, even stealing a base.

"We don't know how long it's going to be," general manager Ned Colletti said Sunday in Mesa, where Los Angeles' spring game against a Chicago Cubs split-squad was rained out. "It's four to six weeks right now but you know how that goes."

A.J. Ellis, who has just 13 career major league at-bats, will get the bulk of the catching duties with Martin out. The Dodgers also have veteran backup Brad Ausmus, who turns 41 in April.

On Sunday, Martin called his injury "a little strain," and said it wasn't a big deal. Moments later, manager Joe Torre said otherwise.

"We're going to send him back to L.A. to have another evaluation," Torre said. A team doctor "looked at the MRI and it's a groin pull. He played on it a couple of days thinking it was just spring training aches and pains."

Torre said Martin still can do strengthening exercises for his upper body and taking batting practice was a possibility.

Martin followed a diet and fitness regimen last winter that dropped him well below his regular 210-pound playing weight. But he struggled offensively last season, when his .250 batting average, seven homers and 53 RBIs all were career lows.

He bulked up this winter, adding 20-plus pounds of muscle, with the intention of improving his power numbers. He had a career-high 19 homers and 87 RBIs in 2007.

"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 that to come in in the condition he did is what's best for him.

"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. So I'm sure that he's not very happy with what happened yesterday either. It's one of those things. Guys get hurt all the time."

Torre wants Martin to trust the doctors and be patient, but the two-time All-Star is hoping to return quickly.

"I'm planning to be ready to go," Martin said. "I'm not planning on missing the first game of the season."

Ellis, 28, was being considered for the backup role before the Dodgers re-signed Ausmus on Jan. 26. Ausmus played in just 36 games in his first season with Los Angeles, and Torre doesn't want to dramatically increase his workload.

"I don't want to run Ausmus into the ground," Torre said.

The Dodgers are not expected to explore a trade for a catcher. Behind Ellis and Ausmus is highly regarded prospect Lucas May.

"At this point and time, finding a catcher that's better than A.J. would be tough to do," Torre said. "He's a workaholic and will give you tough at-bats. He's also a good catcher. I have no hesitations with this kid at all."