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 PHOENIX (AP) -Los Angeles Dodgers third baseman Nomar Garciaparra will likely miss the season opener because of a broken bone in his right hand.
Although Garciaparra would not put a timetable on his return, manager Joe Torre said he ``does not anticipate'' him being ready for opening day and added the two-time AL batting champion could start the season on the disabled list.
``I think we have to wait until the middle of next week to figure out how long Nomar will be out,'' Torre said Thursday.
Garciaparra said he needs to ``take it easy with the hand and not aggravate it.''
``I'm not looking that far ahead,'' he said. ``I'll see how it feels every day, because that's all I can do. You can never predict. ... I have no control over the healing process. My body will do that.''
An MRI on Wednesday in Los Angeles revealed a microfracture in his hand - an injury the Dodgers do not consider to be as serious as a complete fracture of a bone.
``It's small, so that's good,'' Garciaparra said. ``It's not a big fracture. It's just one of those where my body will tell me more than I can tell it.''
Garciaparra was hit by a pitch March 7 and has had pain in his hand ever since, making it difficult to swing a bat. He's had two X-rays and two MRIs, neither of which showed any structural damage in the area where he was struck.
``With all the bones, it was kind of like a chain reaction,'' he said. ``They get squished together. The end of the train takes the brunt of it. It could also be where the bat was sitting when I was getting out of the way.''
Garciaparra took batting practice Tuesday, and had been throwing without any problems.
Did he aggravate the injury by taking swings?
``It wouldn't have hurt it more,'' he said. ``What's done is done. It may not have helped the healing process, but at the same time, you don't know because you have to wait and see if the swelling goes down to really see what's going on. One thing is knowing there is something there rather than everyone going, 'You're fine, you're fine, you're fine.' Now, knowing there is a reason why it's hurting, we can take the appropriate steps and let it heal.''
Tony Abreu and Blake DeWitt are the leading candidates to start at third on opening day if Garciaparra is not ready, although the 22-year-old DeWitt has never played above Double-A. The Dodgers could also trade for a third baseman.
Garciaparra and prospect Andy LaRoche were expected to compete for the third base job when spring training began, but LaRoche tore a ligament in his right thumb the same day Garciaparra was hit in the hand. LaRoche will likely be sidelined at least until the middle of May.
``I couldn't control it,'' Garciaparra said. ``It's disappointing. I always say, 'All right, what do I have to do next to get out there?'''

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