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Blake exits with strained rib-cage muscle

Injured Blake exits Dodgers game

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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A day after losing catcher Russell Martin for four to six weeks with a pulled groin muscle, the Dodgers saw third baseman Casey Blake come out of Monday's exhibition game against the Giants with a strained rib-cage muscle.

The injury was believed by the club to be minor, but it continued a worrisome trend that included word earlier in the day that reliever Cory Wade had been shut down for two weeks with shoulder tenderness.

Manager Joe Torre said Blake felt something playing pregame catch, but it didn't hurt him swinging so he started and singled in the top of the second inning.

But while fielding Kevin Frandsen's sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the second, Blake barehanded the ball and threw sidearm to first base and felt it again. The muscle is on the right side of his rib cage.

"It doesn't seem like an issue. We'll wait and see," said Torre. Trainer Stan Conte "doesn't think it's anything to be concerned with."

Blake also downplayed the severity.

"I don't think it makes much sense, it being March 8, I don't want to take a lot of chances," Blake said. "Plus, I'm an old man. I don't want it to get worse."

The 36-year-old Blake said he's never had a rib-cage pull. He played in 139 games last year for the Dodgers, battling through a couple of bouts of tight hamstrings but staying off the disabled list.

In the game, the Dodgers saw the first exhibition action of the spring for starting pitchers Chad Billingsley and Clayton Kershaw, the latter doubling up after having his scheduled start Sunday rained out. Each allowed a run on three hits in two innings of work.

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"I threw all right and felt good," said Billingsley. "Sometimes I got quick, but overall I was happy with it. I got into jams, but it's not making a pitch when you need to. My stuff was not as sharp, but the fastball felt good."

Kershaw, the likely Opening Day starter, considered it a good first outing.

"I was throwing strikes and working with all my pitches," said Kershaw. "You don't want to get shelled, but obviously the results don't really matter. I was able to throw from the slide step and mix in as many much as I could in two innings. My fastball command was all right and I threw a lot of changeups. That was good."

Offensively, Matt Kemp homered off Barry Zito for the first Dodgers run, Reed Johnson singled in the second run and Blake DeWitt had two hits and two walks.

"Right now, Blake is swinging as well as anybody," said Torre. "I believe he'll hit in the big leagues consistently, not .320, but probably .280 plus do some damage."

Kemp said he likes batting second ahead of Andre Ethier (1-for-3) and Manny Ramirez (0-for-2 and grazed by a pitch).

"They don't want to throw too many balls and put me on so I can steal a base and the big boppers put the ball over the fence," said Kemp. "It's definitely different batting second than eighth."

General manager Ned Colletti said there was no news regarding the status of reliever Ronald Belisario, who is still stuck in Venezuela with visa problems complicated by a driving under the influence arrest last summer. Colletti said if Belisario isn't ready to start the season, he would be placed on the restricted list.

Teammates elevated the Belisario humor level by placing action photos of the right-hander, with a "Most Wanted" headline, around the clubhouse.

"We need to get Dog the Bounty Hunter to find our setup man," said Doug Mientkiewicz.

Sunday's rainout led to a hastily arranged B game that allowed the staff to see a handful of relievers. One of the best performances came from 22-year-old Josh Lindblom, and get ready for that buzz to start all over again. He made an unexpected run at a roster spot late last Spring, but Colletti prevailed and kept Lindblom in the Minor Leagues all season.

"Am I allowed to say it with my general manager around," Torre asked, after naming Lindblom as the player that caught his eye. "He's pretty simple to watch. His ball explodes at the end with something on it."

Fifth-starter candidate Scott Elbert allowed three runs in two innings. Travis Schlichting and Javy Guerra pitched effective single innings and center fielder Trayvon Robinson made a diving catch. The Dodgers hit into four double plays.

In the regular game against the Giants, the Dodgers received two solid innings from Josh Towers; an impressive inning from Jon Link, who came over from the White Sox in the Juan Pierre trade; and two scoreless innings from Rule 5 Draft pick Carlos Monasterios.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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