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03/24/08 5:00 PM ET

Ross likely to start season on DL

Back spasms could sideline catcher on Opening Day

SARASOTA, Fla. -- All indications are that injured Reds catcher David Ross will start the regular season on the disabled list.

Ross, who has been sidelined most of the spring with back spasms, caught in another Minor League game on Monday. When asked if Ross was close to playing in his first big league exhibition game, manager Dusty Baker would not make a commitment.

"He's closer," Baker said. "The one thing we want to make sure is if he's not going to be ready, you don't want to waste a DL spot."

Under Major League rules, a player's DL stint can be retroactive up to nine days. If Ross does not play this spring, the Reds can backdate his DL time to March 21. That means he could be activated as early as April 5. Minor League games at Spring Training don't count against Ross for DL time.

If Ross played a big league game in the final week of camp and was still unable to start the season, he would miss more regular-season games.

"The closer it gets, you have to go through the whole thing," Baker said. "We'll make that determination here pretty soon."

In Monday's Class A Minor League game, Ross caught six innings without issue. Allowed to leadoff every inning, he went 2-for-5 with a walk.

In other Reds health news, infielder Jeff Keppinger was back in camp after being scratched the past two days with the flu.

Catcher Paul Bako was scratched from Monday's lineup and sent home, also with flu-like symptoms. If Ross does open the season on the DL, Bako and Javier Valentin are likely to be the Reds' two catchers.

"It's the wrong time for illness to march through the camp," Baker said. "If a guy has something, you we want to quarantine him right away and send him home so he doesn't infect the other guys."

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