LOS ANGELES -- Disabled Dodgers catcher Brad Ausmus will have surgery Thursday to repair a herniated disk in his lower back. The club said it hoped Ausmus would be back on the field by late summer. Ausmus, who turned 41 Wednesday, was disabled last week after experiencing pain down his left leg and numbness in his left foot after catching Thursday's day game in Pittsburgh. He underwent an MRI on Monday that revealed the disk herniation, but Ausmus requested an epidural injection hoping he could avoid surgery. This is the first time Ausmus has been disabled in a 17-year career.
"We knew the shot would be a long shot, so to speak," said Ausmus, who explained that a piece of disk tore off and lodged against a nerve. "Any time a nerve is being pinched that causes weakness, the pressure just needs to be relieved," said athletic trainer Stan Conte. "We knew very specifically when we saw the MRI that this was a herniated disk. Now in herniated disks, you can have a herniated disk that causes back problems, even that kind of pushes a little bit on the nerve. This was really on top of the nerve. That's why it needs to be removed." Dr. Robert Watkins will perform the microscopic surgery believed similar to one performed two years ago on Rafael Furcal. Ausmus said he will resume traveling with the club next month and continue to participate in prep meetings for pitchers. "Me missing three months might be only seven or eight games," the backup joked, saying he intends to return and not retire because of the injury. "I'm not folding up shop. I signed a contract to play the full season and I'll fulfill the contract unless they tell me to get out of here." Ausmus said he was disappointed with the injury and not relieved by the confidence doctors showed that the operation would relieve the excruciating pain that has made sleeping and sitting almost impossible. "We feel if we get rid of the piece of disk, it should be back to normal," he said. "I can't imagine living the rest of my life with this discomfort." Conte said the standard prognosis is a three-month recovery, although the demands of constant squatting a catcher must do could extend that. A.J. Ellis, who caught Sunday, has replaced Ausmus on the 25-man roster, and manager Joe Torre said Ellis will catch enough to give Russell Martin occasional rest. General manager Ned Colletti said he was comfortable with organizational depth at the position and did not expect to be acquiring another catcher. Although journeyman Justin Knoedler has an injured foot, journeyman JD Closser is at Triple-A Albuquerque. Colletti, however, again mentioned being impressed with the Spring Training of Double-A catcher Lucas May, who has the edge of already being on the 40-man roster.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.