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Beltre says he's two weeks away

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Mariners may be getting a quicker-than-expected boost to their surprising playoff chase.

Gold Glove third baseman Adrian Beltre is hitting for the first time since shoulder surgery this weekend, and the mainstay in the middle of Seattle's batting order said Friday he's two weeks away from returning to his surging team.

Beltre had surgery June 30 to remove painful bone spurs in his left, non-throwing shoulder. The Mariners estimated he'd miss six to eight weeks.

He said he has been playing catch and fielding groundballs. He'll hit off a tee Saturday.

"I'm feeling like I probably could play right now," said Beltre, who is renowned in Seattle for playing through pain.

When asked if his cautious Mariners are putting up a big stop sign to that idea, Beltre nodded and said, "Yeah."

He said the team is telling him he must wait another two weeks to return but that his rehabilitation is ahead of schedule. The Mariners want to ensure the shoulder is strong enough to keep the bone spurs from returning.

"It feels way better," he said, putting on his uniform for a workout during batting practice. "Two more weeks."

He is batting .259 with five home runs and 31 RBIs in 73 games. He gained more respect inside his clubhouse by playing two games last month against his former Los Angeles Dodgers in the days immediately after he decided to have the surgery.

Seattle, which acquired Jack Hannahan from Oakland this month to fill in for Beltre at third base, entered Friday night's game against Cleveland a season-high seven games over .500, and 12-8 without Beltre.

Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu told reporters on a road trip this week the team is trying to slow down Beltre in his rehabilitation.

Wakamatsu said the team is discussing a plan of simulated games and perhaps a minor league rehabilitation assignment of a few games, to get Beltre at-bats before he returns to the lineup.