Ausmus gets new look at familiar place

Ausmus gets new look at familiar place

HOUSTON -- For backup Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus, Tuesday's game against the Houston Astros was oddly familiar and jarringly foreign at the same time.

Ausmus, who had spent 10 seasons, including the previous eight, with the Astros before signing a free-agent deal with the Dodgers, got to glimpse previously unseen portions of his former stomping grounds at Minute Maid Park.

"It wasn't weird coming into the stadium, but it was weird being in the visiting [clubhouse]," Ausmus said. "This is the one part of the stadium I've never seen. I've never set foot in here before."

But the 16-year veteran did find time to renew acquaintances before starting a three-game series on Tuesday against the Astros.

"I'm still in touch with a lot of the players," Ausmus said. "I have dinner with Lance [Berkman] from time to time, and I had dinner with Baggy [Jeff Bagwell, on Monday night]. I've talked to Bidge [Craig Biggio]. It's not like these guys disappear from your life."

For Mark Loretta, another Dodgers player who spent last year with Houston, this week's series against the Astros isn't quite as nostalgic.

"I've got several ex-teams," said Loretta. "I guess I'm getting to that point in my career -- Milwaukee, San Diego, Boston, Houston."

Ausmus said he is enjoying his time with the Dodgers, though he rarely gets off the bench behind Russell Martin.

"There are a lot of things to like," Ausmus said. "We're playing pretty well right now. It's a good young team with a pretty explosive lineup. That's fun to be a part of, although I'm not a part of it as I would have been a few years back. But it's fun to be on the team, and it's fun for me to be close to home. It's really working out well."

Before Tuesday's game against the Astros, Dodgers manager Joe Torre sat in the visitor's dugout at Minute Maid Park and addressed the team's injury situation.

Utility man Doug Mientkiewicz had surgery on Monday to repair the completely dislocated shoulder he suffered in an April 16 game against San Francisco. According to Torre, the surgery "really went well," and he expects Mientkiewicz to be back in September.

Pitcher Corey Wade, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list April 12 because of right shoulder bursitis, responded well to a cortisone shot on April 14 and is throwing at Camelback Ranch in Phoenix.

Jason Schmidt, who has been on the disabled list since March 30 (shoulder), threw five innings Tuesday, tossing "65 or 70 pitches," according to Torre, who added that the righty is approaching a rehab assignment.

"But I'm not sure if that next step is going to be his next outing," Torre said.

Michael Murphy is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.