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05/24/08 5:52 PM ET

Aybar nearing return from disabled list

Rays will have decision to make on ex-starting third baseman

ST. PETERSBURG -- Willy Aybar had three at-bats for Triple-A Durham on Friday night and is close to being able to return to action for the Rays.

Aybar, who was acquired from the Braves in an offseason trade, has been on the 15-day disabled list with a left hamstring strain since April 12 and has missed 40 games.

Aybar is "probably close to a week [away] now," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We talked about it in Oakland."

Aybar was the Rays' Opening Day third baseman and was hitting .292 with a home run and two RBIs in 24 at-bats before going on the DL. He went 0-for-3 while playing third base in his first game with the Bulls.

"He played [Friday] night, batted fourth for Durham ... [and] he's doing well," Maddon said. "So he's moving along well. He's starting to run better. He's starting to field better. Now is a good time to get him to play a couple of games in a row to see how that happens. He's playing again [Saturday night]. I think the plan is three games in a row, then see what he looks like."

Though the Rays would like Aybar to add the outfield to the list of positions he can play, the plan for now is to concentrate on third base, first and second.

Aybar is out of options, meaning if the Rays do not make a place for him on their Major League roster upon his return from the DL, he would have to clear waivers to be sent down to the Minor Leagues.

Currently, the team has been playing well and, seemingly, in harmony. Would they risk that chemistry in favor of bringing in a player they felt had more talent than a player currently on the Major League roster? Maddon was asked about the delicate balance of the team's chemistry.

"You're always concerned about disrupting chemistry, but my concern was that if you get somebody qualified and everybody knows you're getting better, there's no problem doing that," Maddon said. "I've had it on the other side where there was an acquisition made where it disrupted chemistry, and that can be devastating. ... Everybody wants to win and everybody knows if you do something to help the team win, that's the right thing. Everybody understands that."

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