Bartlett hoping for weekend return

Bartlett hoping for weekend return

ST. PETERSBURG -- Jason Bartlett spoke to the media on Wednesday and said that his injured left ankle is feeling better and he expects to join the team as soon as Friday.

The Rays shortstop took ground balls to different sides for the first time Tuesday and said he was surprised at how good the ankle felt. On Wednesday, he ran the bases and took batting practice. Bartlett has been on the disabled list since May 26 and was eligible to come off Wednesday.

"I've been running arcs and those have been getting better," Bartlett said. "I took ground balls today, felt all right. Felt a lot better than a few days ago."

Bartlett said he'd like to be ready to join the team for this weekend's series at home against Washington, but added that it's more likely he'll return next week in Colorado. He doesn't believe any Minor League rehab time will be necessary.

"If I come out here, stand in on some bullpens, just get in some BP sessions, I think I'll be all right," Bartlett said.

Bartlett was batting .373 -- second in the American League -- with seven home runs and 30 RBIs at the time of his injury, a breakout start for a player known better for his defensive prowess.

Rays manager Joe Maddon didn't have anything to add as far as a prediction for Bartlett's return, but said it will be as soon as he's ready.

"With a situation like his, it is entirely based on medicine and what they're telling us," Maddon said. "I know that he's running better. I watch him walking around, I know he feels good about himself. We're pretty eager to get him back."

Filling in for him at shortstop has been rookie Reid Brignac mostly, though utility man Ben Zobrist has taken a few starts. The Rays are 6-7 since Bartlett went down.

Bartlett said his time on the shelf has been especially frustrating, considering his hot start and how he had been feeling offensively. When told his name had recently slipped off the leader board for batting average due to the missed plate appearances, Bartlett laughed, shrugged and said he'll have to work on getting it back up there.

"Even in my BP sessions I'm trying to get that feel back," Bartlett said. "And it's not coming back, so I'm starting to stress. It is frustrating. I was feeling great, so we'll see what happens when I come back."

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.