Dark Sunday: Martin Out 4-6 Weeks

It was a dark and stormy day at Camelback Ranch, washing out the White Sox game (and the Dodgers game in Mesa), but it was particularly gloomy for the Dodgers who announced that catcher Russell Martin, contrary to other reports, will be out 4-6 weeks with a strain either the lower abdomen or the groin area in the muscles that connect the hip, abdomen and groin.

Manager Joe Torre told reporters that the club will not go outside the organization to replace martin, rather that rookie A.J. Ellis the starting catcher for the present time at least. either the lower abdomen or the groin area in the muscles that connect the hip, abdomen and groin."

Martin stole second base in the sixth inning of the opening game on Friday, and stood for some time in some discomfort on the base after a head-first slide. However, he stayed in the game and scored, then complained of discomfort and said it had been bothering him for several days, "which we didn't know about" Torre added.

Team trainer Stan Conte told reporters in Phoenix that the extra 25 pounds Martin gained in the off season was unrelated and the injury could have happened to anyone.

"Ellis will get the bulk of the catching," manager Joe Torre said. "We have to figure out the right balance between A.J. and [Brad] Ausmus. I don't want to run Ausmus into the ground." Ellis is 28, has been in the team's minor league system for seven years and has an on-base average of over .400 the last three seasons. However, over 13 major-league at-bats, he has one hit.

Ausmus, 41 next month, has all kinds of experience. He is starting his 18th major-league season and caught 1,950 games and 15,673 innings, the last 36 games as a backup to Martin in 2009.

Rain washed out the Dodgers' exhibition game against the Cubs in Mesa, so Sunday's scheduled starter Clayton Kershaw will follow starter Chad Billingsley to the mound Monday against the Giants in Scottsdale. After the two starters, Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios is likely to pitch. Also on the trip will be Josh Towers, Jon Link, Juan Perez and Francisco Felix.

The Dodgers also have scheduled a morning "B" game Monday against the White Sox to pick up some of the innings lost Sunday. Among the pitchers in that game will be Scott Elbert, Josh Lindblom, Ramon Troncoso, Travis Schlichting, Kenley Jansen, Javy Guerra and Rule 5 pick Armando Zerpa.

Blake Has Inside Edge
After seeing plenty of obstacles put in his way over the last two years, Blake DeWitt looks to be the favorite for the starting second base job.

Spring training is still young, but it seems as if DeWitt will get every chance to earn the job over candidates such as Ronnie Belliard and Jamey Carroll, both of whom could end up as utility men.

DeWitt started the spring training opener on a day when manager Joe Torre's lineup had all of the other projected opening-day starters. DeWitt played solid defense and went 1-for-2 with a walk and a run.

"DeWitt played both sides of the ball really well," Torre said. "He's worked very hard at second base. He's really applied himself, and I'm really impressed."

He started the 2008 season as the Dodgers' surprise opening-day third baseman after an injury-plagued camp took out a number of other contenders. DeWitt slumped at midseason, though, and the Dodgers ended up getting Casey Blake in a trade.

DeWitt returned later that year having reinvented himself as a second baseman. He even started at second in the postseason over veteran Jeff Kent. Last season, though, the Dodgers signed second baseman Orlando Hudson and brought over Belliard late in the year.

After getting recalled to the Dodgers six separate times in 2009, it looks as if a solid spring would allow DeWitt to settle in. But he will have to win the starting role.

General manager Ned Colletti already has said that if DeWitt isn't the starter on opening day, he will return to Class AAA Albuquerque, where he could get consistent at-bats.

--LF Manny Ramirez was drawing rave reviews for his work early in spring training. Ramirez, who was in camp a week before the required reporting date for position players, had even been adept at handling bunting drills. He was hitting .800 after the first two exhibition games, drawing praise from manager Joe Torre.

--LHP Brent Leach, who pitched in 38 games with the Dodgers last season, has been shut down with a groin strain.

--RHP James McDonald thinks the addition of a two-seam fastball can help him win the battle for the open No. 5 spot in the rotation. McDonald worked on the pitch in winter ball when told by his teammates there that veteran winter ball players thrive on straight fastballs. McDonald is also in line for a bullpen spot if he doesn't end up in the rotation. However, he was roughed up in his first two inning appearance.

--CF Matt Kemp already is seeing his stock rise with a solid 2009 season and the revelation this winter that he is close friends with singer Rihanna. Kemp had a recent four-hour photo shoot with GQ magazine that required him to run, catch and hit all while wearing casual but progressive form-fitting clothing.

--OF Brian Giles said he would retire if he isn't on a major league roster on opening day. The 39-year-old veteran is battling for a bench job with the Dodgers, but hasn't been at full speed because of chronic right knee problems. He has no intention of accepting a minor league assignment.

--Outfielder Garret Anderson arrived in camp and said it would take him about a week before he would start seeing action.

--Former Dodgers ace Ramon Martinez has been added to the staff as a special coach. Martinez who pitched in Los Angeles for 11 years, won 123 games, including a no-hitter, while losing 77. He was a 20-game winner in 1990 and second in the Cy Young voting.

--Ron Belisario, who was a welcome surprise in 2009, has still not been able to clear his visa and could open the season in the minor leagues.

-- Orel Hershiser, former Dodgers pitcher and current ESPN baseball analyst, will be added to the Sunday Night Baseball booth the network announced on Thursday. Hershiser will join play-by-play announcer Jon Miller,and analyst Joe Morgan for the 2010 season. Miller and Morgan are entering their 21st consecutive season on Sunday Night Baseball. Hershiser will replace Steve Phillips who was let go after his relationship with a production assistant became public.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- Outfielders the Dodgers could potentially carry on the opening-day roster if Garret Anderson winds up making the club. Manager Joe Torre is working on scenarios where the Dodgers open the season with 11 pitchers instead of the 12 he originally intended to carry.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Man, I hit one through nine since I've been in the big leagues, and I can hit anywhere. If that's where (manager) Joe (Torre) wants me to hit, that's where I'm going to hit. I'll just do the best I can to get on base for the big boys." -- CF Matt Kemp, on Torre's idea of batting him second, a spot where he collected just five of his 101 RBIs last season.

Back-to-back appearances in the NL Championship Series have set the bar high for the 2010 Dodgers team that will look strikingly similar to the 2009 club. Every position player who started in last year's postseason will return, keeping the drama to a minimum this spring. Replacing contributions from LHP Randy Wolf and 2B Orlando Hudson won't be easy.

ARRIVALS: RHP Josh Towers (minor league free agent from Yankees), INF Jamey Carroll (free agent from Indians), RHP Justin Miller (minor league free agent from Giants), INF Nick Green (minor league free agent from Red Sox), OF Reed Johnson (free agent from Cubs), UT Alfredo Amezaga (minor league free agent from Marlins), OF Brian Giles (minor league free agent from Padres), OF Eric Gagné (minor league free agent from Brewers).

DEPARTURES: LHP Randy Wolf (free agent, signed with Brewers), INF Juan Castro (free agent, signed with Phillies), OF Juan Pierre (traded to White Sox), INF Mark Loretta (retired), 1B Jim Thome (free agent, signed with Twins), RHP Jon Garland (free agent, signed with Padres), RHP Guillermo Mota (free agent, signed minor league deal with Giants), 2B Orlando Hudson (free agent, signed with Twins), LHP Eric Milton (free agent, unsigned), RHP Jason Schmidt (free agent, unsigned).