Ausmus to have back surgery
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus, who learned on his 41st birthday Wednesday that he will need surgery to repair a herniated disk on his back and will miss at least three months, says he is committed to playing again when he is well enough to do so.
"I'm not folding up shop," Ausmus said. "They say three months, and that is obviously subject to change. But I signed a contract with the Dodgers to play a full season, and despite the fact I'm going to spend part of it on the DL, I plan to fulfill that commitment."
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Ausmus will undergo surgery Thursday morning at Marina del Rey Hospital. It will be performed by Drs. Robert Watkins Sr. and Jr.
Ausmus is in his second season with the Dodgers as Russell Martin's backup, having signed a one-year contract over the winter to remain with the club. The deal carries a $1 million guarantee, including an $850,000 salary for this season and a $150,000 buyout of a $1 million mutual option for 2011.
A.J. Ellis, who was recalled from Triple-A Albuquerque when Ausmus went onto the DL, will remain as Martin's backup.
"If somebody else becomes available that we think is better, we will take a look," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. "But there weren't many people we were going to bring in to back up Russell other than Brad, because of who Brad is. If Brad hadn't re-signed with us, we were prepared to go with A.J. as the backup."
Although he wasn't expected to be ready to play until at least the All-Star break, Ausmus plans to be around the team on a daily basis once he is cleared to travel. Ausmus says he hopes to receive clearance after missing just one trip, the Dodgers' upcoming, nine-game junket to Cincinnati, Washington and New York that begins Tuesday.
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"Russ and I have been doing the reports, and A.J., too, when he was here, for the last year," Ausmus said. "I will continue to be involved with that. I have all my notes from last year, and Russ has his, and we put it all together before each series. We will continue to do the same thing."
Ausmus was put on the 15-day disabled list Saturday because of a lower-back injury he said at the time he hoped wouldn't take more than two weeks to heal. But he admitted Wednesday he was fairly sure he would need surgery after receiving an epidural injection in a last-ditch effort to avoid an operation.
He originally felt the pain shortly after catching all nine innings of last Thursday's game at Pittsburgh, the Dodgers' first win of the season, and it kept him from sitting or lying down for any long period of time. Dodgers trainer Stan Conte likened the trauma to the disk to what happens when you squeeze a jelly doughnut and the jelly comes out the other side.
"In this case, the jelly actually came out and landed right on the nerve,'' Conte said.
Ausmus considered retiring each of the past two winters and hinted before last Monday's season opener in Pittsburgh that it probably was the last opener of his 17-year career. Before Saturday, Ausmus, a three-time Gold Glove-winning catcher, had never been on the disabled list in the major leagues.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com