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Bartlett hopes to be back in top form

Bartlett hopes to be back in top form

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DENVER -- Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett was having a career year before he was injured with a left ankle sprain on May 24 and he landed on the disabled list. Bartlett was activated Monday and made his return Tuesday against the Rockies in Interleague Play, batting sixth.

"It's really tough, because it was my best season yet" Bartlett said. "I felt great up there, things were clicking and I was feeling great."

Before his injury, Bartlett was leading all American League shortstops in batting (.373), home runs (seven), RBIs (30) and stolen bases (14). Bartlett was feeling horrible about his injury and how it had interrupted his breakout season. In an effort to get back on the field, he prodded the team's trainers to speed up his recovery.

"I wanted to get back as soon as I could," Bartlett said. "Every day, I was pushing the trainers to do more, and I was trying to let them let me get back sooner than expected. I was getting on the field. I was doing treatment. I was wanting to do something that we were supposed to do the next day that day. They wanted to kind of take it slow and I wanted to go a little faster.

"From what I heard, I was a little ahead of schedule."

During the offseason, Bartlett said he put on 15 pounds and he credited the extra muscle with his success offensively. During his rehab, Bartlett tried to regain five of the pounds he had lost in an attempt to continue the roll he was on once he returned.

But Bartlett's biggest motivation for returning quicker than the team anticipated was the ribbing he received. Whenever Bartlett was with the club during his stint on the DL, teammates and some members of the coaching staff let him hear it.

"They were always giving me stuff about getting back sooner and quit milking it," Bartlett said. "You always hear that. That kind of pushed me to get back quicker."

Manager Joe Maddon, however, was not one of the few who took humorous shots at Bartlett.

"I'm not one of those guys," Maddon said. "We have several on this staff and in this clubhouse. I leave that kind of motivation in their hands. I choose to go different routes."

Maddon said on Tuesday that he was just happy to see Bartlett back.

"It's nice to get your shortstop back, one of the better players in the American League right now," Maddon said. "It's really nice to be able to write his name into the lineup."

Cheng Sio is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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