Muscle strain lands Nomar on 15-day DL

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers placed first baseman Nomar Garciaparra on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday because of a strained muscle in his right side and recalled James Loney from Triple-A Las Vegas.

The 21-year-old Loney was in the lineup Tuesday night against Atlanta, batting fifth and playing first. His big-league debut, however, was in jeopardy because of day-long rain.

Garciaparra, signed as a free agent during the offseason, was injured while swinging in his first-at-bat Sunday in the Dodgers' exhibition finale against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim.

When Garciaparra returns, he will be playing first base for the first time, having been a shortstop most of his career.

"I believe it's only going to be a two-week thing," Garciaparra said. "Let's get this right so we can put this behind us."

Garciaparra said he wasn't discouraged but added: "Disappointed and frustrated, no question. There is never a good time. There's a time when you can be a little more cautious. This is the time."

The 32-year-old Garciaparra has spent extensive time on the disabled list in three of his last five seasons, playing only 21 games in 2001, 81 in 2004 and 62 last season.

He said he's never had this kind of injury.

"I've read about it and see guys have it all the time -- now I know what it feels like," he said. "I feel better today, which is good. I trust the medical staff here -- they've gone through this, they've seen this injury in the past. I'm putting it in their hands.

"Let's say it's an eight-day, 10-day thing -- you can't play a man short that long," he said.

Dodgers manager Grady Little said Loney will share first base duties with Olmedo Saenz while Garciaparra is sidelined, with Ramon Martinez also possibly playing first.

"We were very impressed with this kid in spring training," Little said. "We like the way he swings the bat. We like the way he plays first base."

Loney said he figured he might get the call when he heard Garciaparra was hurting.

"I feel great, man," he said. "I saw I was in the five-hole. That's cool. This has been a dream for who knows how long. It feels like a real good team here. I feel relaxed -- ready to have fun."

Weather permitting, Loney was scheduled to face Braves ace John Smoltz for the first time. Before meeting with reporters, he spent time watching video of Smoltz.

"I'm going to be ready, excited, prepared," he said of his first at-bat.

Loney has never played above Double-A but has made quite an impression over the past three springs. He hit .284 with 11 homers and 65 RBI in 138 games with Double-A Jacksonville last year. The Dodgers made him the 19th overall selection in the June 2002 draft.

The Dodgers are starting the season with two regulars sidelined -- center fielder Kenny Lofton was placed on the DL on Sunday because of a strained calf.

"That's what goes on -- it's life," Lofton said. "That's the way the game is. You can look at other teams as well having injuries. Bad luck or something. You can't put a finger on it. If it's going to happen, let it happen now."

Lofton was injured Thursday in an exhibition game in Las Vegas.