Russell Martin has pulled groin

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Russell Martin probably will miss the start of the season after being diagnosed with a pulled right groin Sunday.

He is expected to be out of action for four to six weeks, after which he might need a minor league rehabilitation assignment before rejoining the Dodgers.

The Dodgers' season opener is April 5 at Pittsburgh, four weeks from Monday.

"I would guess [he'll miss it]," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "I think that was part of what made him continue to play and do other things after he felt a little [discomfort] the other day. He didn't feel like it was any big deal, and he was able to do everything."

Torre said Martin will be traveling back to L.A. for more tests.

A team doctor "looked at the MRI and it's a groin pull," Torre said. "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 said he initially felt the injury during a baserunning drill last week and that it intensified when he stole a base in the Dodgers' Cactus League opener against the Chicago White Sox on Friday. Only then did he alert the team's medical staff to the situation, but Torre didn't fault Martin for that.

"You tell players all the time that if you feel anything, don't be a hero," Torre said. "On Russell's part, he probably wasn't being a hero. He just didn't think it was a big deal."

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," Dodgers general manager Ned 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."

Early in camp, Martin attributed his weight gain -- practically all of which appears to be muscle -- on incorporating more weightlifting into his offseason routine, on eating a more balanced diet that includes more protein, and on a new program involving intense, hourlong workouts in a heated room.

Martin was asked Sunday if his injury might be a result of some of those activities.

"I don't think so,'' he said. "I haven't lost any flexibility, except maybe a little bit in my shoulder. Other than that, my legs are flexible. You have to stretch or else you get tight, and that is one thing I don't want to be, and I'm not. A baseball player has to have long, lean muscle."

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."

Torre said A.J. Ellis will get the majority of the playing time the rest of this spring and probably will begin the season in Martin's roster spot, but he stopped short of saying Ellis will be the primary catcher when the season begins. Brad Ausmus, the Dodgers' current backup, is a 17-year veteran and a three-time Gold Glove winner, but he also will turn 41 on April 14.

"We'll see," Torre said. "I think by [Opening Day], it will still be A.J. and Ausmus, but I think it's a matter of trying to figure out what the balance of playing time will be. Ausmus has played every day in the past and he is used to playing every day, even though he was a backup for us last year.''

Ellis, who will turn 29 on April 9, is coming off two outstanding offensive seasons at the Triple-A level, and he has long been lauded for his defensive and game-calling skills. He has appeared in 12 major league games for the Dodgers over the past two seasons and was in line to be Martin's backup this year until the team re-signed Ausmus on Jan. 26.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.