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09/23/08 6:45 PM ET

Crawford trying to expedite return

Rays spark plug feels no pain in surgically repaired finger

BALTIMORE -- Carl Crawford hit off a tee Tuesday, and he is lobbying for the Rays to expedite his return from the hand injury that put him on the disabled list in early August.

"Oh yeah, this is a huge step," Crawford said. "This is the first time I'm officially hitting, so yeah, it's a huge step to me, so I hope I can keep progressing."

Crawford has been on the disabled list since Aug. 10 after suffering a subluxation of his right middle finger tendon.

The injury required surgery, and the Rays have been taking a cautious approach in the hope Crawford can avoid having a recurrence of the injury that happened when he heard something pop while checking his swing against J.J. Putz of the Mariners on Aug. 9 in Seattle.

The injury was located at the base of the middle finger of his right hand, at the joint connecting the finger to the hand. The tendon used to straighten the finger came out of its groove, which caused the finger to lock into position when he bent his finger downward.

"There's no pain," Crawford said. "I can swing the bat. I'll probably be a little nervous to swing hard at first, but that's normal. You get me going ... the quicker we get me going, the quicker I'll know what I can and can't do.

"But I understand the trainers want to take it slow, and I'm cool with that, you know. I'm trying to make the lineup for the opening day of the playoffs. [The] only way I can do that is to go ahead and go full speed like I normally would."

Originally, the Rays thought mid-October would be the realistic date they could expect Crawford to return. But Crawford's exuberance and his reporting no pain while swinging are encouraging signs.

"I want to talk to [head athletic trainer Ron Porterfield]," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I want to move this thing along. I'm glad he feels great. Good for him, good for us. Again, I just want to be cautious for how we act. I've got to get more information."

If the Rays' medical staff deems Crawford properly healed, he could get ready for the playoffs by playing in a game or two in Detroit during the Rays' final regular-season series or possibly next week in St. Petersburg during instructional league games.

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