PHOENIX -- Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who originally was estimated to be out four to six weeks with a right groin strain, will catch in a minor league spring training game on Thursday, a significant step in his rehabilitation and a strong indication he might make it back in time for Opening Day after all.
Groin injuries are notoriously unpredictable. Dodgers trainer Stan Conte has said repeatedly since the injury that Martin might progress rapidly and then hit a plateau.
"He has done a lot of running, but running in a game will be different,'' manager Joe Torre said. "All of a sudden, it's ratcheted up a little more as far as energy. But he was champing today. He came into my office with a bat in his hand. He feels good, and that is a good sign.''
A big element of whether Martin is ready for the April 5 opener at Pittsburgh is how many at-bats he can get between now and then.
"I never thought about him being ready for Opening Day, but we'll see how the next couple of days go and see if it's realistic,'' Torre said.
Left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo underwent a precautionary MRI that showed no new elbow damage, and he is expected to return to action in a few days. Kuo, who has had several elbow surgeries while he was still in the minors, experienced mild discomfort the day after the most recent of his two Cactus League appearances Friday night against San Diego.
Kuo played soft toss at Camelback Ranch after the MRI and said everything was fine and he was ready to go.
"With all the stuff he has had, I'm not going to say there was nothing" on the MRI, Torre said. "Just to give you some background, he pitched, and he came off the field feeling fine, but the next day wasn't as good. The day after that, he felt fine again. But we weren't going to let him throw, and Stan said let's do the MRI.''
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.