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07/30/09 9:29 PM ET

Beltre nearly ready to return for Mariners

Slugger could be back for Tuesday's opener vs. Royals

ARLINGTON -- Friday's 1 p.m. PT non-waiver Trade Deadline will have expired when the Mariners open a three-game series against the Royals in Kansas City on Tuesday, but Seattle will likely be getting a key player before the game without losing anyone.

That's the projected date for third baseman Adrian Beltre's return.

"I'm almost ready to go," Beltre said Thursday night. "If everything goes according to plan, I will play on Tuesday."

If so, he would return about a week sooner than had been predicted prior to having a bone spur removed from his left shoulder. The "six-to-eight week" recovery will be closer to five weeks.

Beltre rejoined the club following the All-Star Game break and will continue to work out, take pregame batting practice, and occasionally stand in the batter's box during a routine bullpen session by any of Seattle's starters. That's what he did recently when ace right-hander Felix Hernandez was getting his between-start work in.

Beltre would rather be coming off the 15-day disabled list prior to Thursday's four-game series opener against the Rangers, "especially with Texas being one of the teams in front of us in our division."

"It's a big series for us, but the guys are playing good again after going through a little slump," Beltre said.

The Mariners have pretty much treaded water since their Gold Glove defender last played. They had a 36-33 record and trailed the AL West-leading Angels by three games on June 28.

Seattle went into Thursday night's game with a 53-48 record, but was 7 1/2 games behind the Angels.

"We have missed him," first baseman Russell Branyan said, "but guys have stepped up."

Chris Woodward and Jack Hannahan have shared the position during Beltre's absence, going a combined 21-for-94 (.223) with one home run and 17 RBIs, compared to the .259 batting average, five home runs and 31 RBIs Beltre accumulated in 297 at-bats.

The Mariners are expecting more production from a healthy Beltre.

There had been some discussion about giving Beltre some at-bats during a brief rehab assignment in the Minor Leagues, but that isn't likely, unless he encounters a setback this weekend.

"I don't really like rehabs," Beltre said. "I have missed enough games already and it would seem like a waste of time."

Manager Don Wakamatsu said the way Beltre has looked in batting practice indicates that he doesn't need a rehab assignment.

"His swing looks as good as I've seen it in a long time," Wakamatsu said, "and that is why we feel comfortable not having him go out on a rehab assignment."

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