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08/13/08 9:39 PM ET

Bartlett throwing better but not there yet

Shortstop closer to playing field, should return any day now

OAKLAND -- Jason Bartlett has not played shortstop since Aug. 3, when he was hit on the right index finger on a bunt attempt.

After playing catch with infield coach Tom Foley prior to Wednesday night's game, Bartlett appears closer to being ready to play.

Bartlett said Foley told him his throws looked a lot better Wednesday than they did Tuesday.

"So I guess we're making progress," Bartlett said. "Just a matter of being close to 100 percent. I want to be able to make that throw in the hole, make a double play. ... [Ben Zobrist has] done a great job. If I'm not going to be able to perform like I can, I'm going to try and get better so I can.

"I want to be out there, but I want to be able to make a routine throw to first."

Bartlett described what he's dealing with as a bad bone bruise.

"It doesn't feel great," Bartlett said. "The ball's sailing a lot ... trying to get that feeling back. It just seems like I throw one and it will hurt, and after that I favor it and it sails. I guess it's just a matter of figuring out a way to throw and getting out there. Hopefully, tomorrow I'll feel a lot better and go from there."

Rays manager Joe Maddon said Tuesday he expected Bartlett to return to shortstop by the start of the Texas series Friday, but Wednesday Maddon did not rule out using him as a late-inning replacement against the A's on Wednesday night, nor did he rule out the possibility of starting Bartlett at shortstop Thursday afternoon.

"I don't know [about Bartlett starting Thursday], we'll see," Maddon said. "I'm not there yet. We'll see how he feels when he comes in tomorrow morning. If he feels great and he's adament that he's fine, I would consider it."

Bartlett has been surprised at how long it has taken him to return to playing the field.

"When they said it wasn't broken, I figured once the swelling went down I'd be all right," Bartlett said.

Bartlett has even tried throwing mostly with his right middle finger instead of gripping the ball with his index finger.

"It helps [with the pain]," Bartlett said. "But you never want to change the way you throw. My shoulder might get messed up if I do that. You want to keep it as normal as possible, but if I have to go with that middle finger then so be it."

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