- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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MIAMI -- Los Angeles Dodgers backup catcher Brad Ausmus was placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time in his 17-year career on Saturday with what is being termed a pinched nerve in his back. Although there is no timetable for his return, Ausmus said he hopes he will be ready to come back as soon as he becomes eligible on April 24 at Washington.
The move was made retroactive to Friday, the day after Ausmus caught all nine innings of a win at Pittsburgh. A.J. Ellis, the Dodgers' top catching prospects, was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque to take Ausmus' roster spot and back up starter Russell Martin.
Ausmus said that while the injury originates in his back, it presents itself in the form of numbness all the way down his left leg, from his hip to his foot. The injury isn't related to a chronic lower-back problem Ausmus has experienced sporadically during his career, an issue that flared up again during spring training and caused him to be shut down for a week.
"The other day, when I was catching in Pittsburgh, about the eighth inning my hip started giving me some problems," he said. "I was hoping it was just a case of not having caught that much after missing a week of spring training. But over the next 18 hours, during any prolonged sitting or lying down, I would get a shooting pain down my left leg."
Ausmus said he had trouble sitting on the team bus to the airport after Thursday's game and on the charter flight to Fort Lauderdale, then had trouble sleeping that night. He woke up Friday morning feeling what he described as "pins and needles" in his foot.
The decision to place Ausmus on the DL actually was made before Friday night's game, but it was kept quiet so the Florida Marlins wouldn't know that Russell Martin was the Dodgers' only catcher. Ellis was scratched from Albuquerque's game at Oklahoma City during batting practice, but he wasn't able to get a flight until the following morning.
Ausmus, who will turn 41 on Wednesday, said he was disappointed that he didn't finish his career without a DL stint, but that he understood why it had to happen now.
"I'm pretty much at, or really close to, the end of my career, although who knows when it's going to end?" he said. "I was hoping to avoid it my entire career, but this time, there wasn't much chance of that. [Trainer] Stan [Conte] and [manager] Joe [Torre] knew there was too much risk involved in putting me into a game and that they would have to have somebody else here. The only way to do that was to put me on the DL.'"
Ausmus, who is tied for seventh on the all-time list in games behind the plate, hinted earlier this week that he will probably retire after this season, but he has been in that frame of mind each of the past two winters and still wound up signing with the Dodgers each time.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.