GLENDALE, Ariz. -- On the day the Los Angeles Dodgers announced their opening-day starting pitcher, Russell Martin wasn't ready to declare himself the Opening Day starting catcher. But after catching four innings in a minor league game, he felt like he was getting closer.
"I'm fairly optimistic about it,'' Martin said. "I felt like myself today.''
Playing against what was roughly the Texas Rangers' Triple-A squad in Surprise, Martin singled and doubled in two at-bats and ran at full speed without any discomfort in his right groin, where he suffered a strain earlier this month that was expected to keep him out four to six weeks and result in him starting the season on the disabled list.
Martin now looks like a strong bet to be ready to start the season.
"I think we have to wait and see how he feels tomorrow,'' Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He had a good workout today. He blocked some balls, and he looked very normal to me.''
Martin also got plenty of motion behind the plate because Ethan Martin, one of the Dodgers' top pitching prospects, was unusually wild. The biggest test for Martin's injury, though, came when he was running off second base on a line drive that barely got under the second baseman's glove and initially looked like it might be caught.
"I had to freeze, go back to the bag and then break for third, and I didn't feel anything,'' Martin said. I felt comfortable in the [batter's] box, and I didn't feel anything on the base paths.''
Martin is scheduled to catch six innings in a minor league game at Camelback Ranch on Friday. Those games are structured loosely enough that he will be able to lead off each of those six innings. If that goes well, Torre said, Martin probably will be ready to play in a Cactus League game soon thereafter.
Ortiz to bullpen?
Non-roster right-hander Ramon Ortiz, who had been stretched to four innings in his previous appearance on Saturday against Texas, pitched just one inning in Thursday's Cactus League game, a 7-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers before 8,053 at the Ballpark. That would seem to indicate Ortiz, despite a 1.29 ERA for the spring, is no longer a candidate for the fifth starter's spot and will make the team as a reliever.
"I think he is the kind of guy who could give us both or either one,'' Torre said of starting vs. relief work.
Ortiz said he prefers starting, but that after not pitching in the majors since 2007, he is fine with doing either one.
I'll be happy with anything that happens, because it will be an opportunity for me,'' he said. I am throwing the ball very well, and I am very happy right now. ... When I signed here, my agent told me that I would have the opportunity to be the No. 5 starter, but you can see that everybody is throwing the ball good. I'm throwing good, too, but when you have a situation like that, the only thing you can do is keep throwing the ball the way you're throwing it. If I start the season in the bullpen and they need me later to start, I will be ready for that, too.''
Torre said Rule 5 pick Carlos Monasterios also will be scaled back to a single inning in his next appearance after he threw four innings on Monday. If Ortiz and Monasterios are out of the running for fifth starter -- both, however, are looking like locks for the bullpen -- that leaves Russ Ortiz as the clear leader in the race. He has a 2.08 ERA in four appearances this spring.
Relief in sight
Closer Jonathan Broxton and setup man George Sherrill each pitched a scoreless inning against the Brewers, and both will pitch again on Thursday against Kansas City, marking the first time this spring the two back-end relievers will have pitched on consecutive days. Torre said they will do so again during next week's three-game exhibition series back in Southern California, their final tune-ups before the start of the season.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.