Cespedes making progress, could return Friday

Cespedes making progress, could return Friday

OAKLAND -- Yoenis Cespedes said Thursday afternoon his left hand felt "better than yesterday," and it appears the outfielder could potentially return to the lineup as soon as Friday.

Cespedes, who on Wednesday was diagnosed with a muscle strain in the back of his hand, hit off the tee and took part in a round of soft toss Thursday, but the real test was to come following batting practice, when he was scheduled to see action in the inside cages.

How Cespedes fares swinging the bat in there should help determine his closeness to game action. Either way, manager Bob Melvin said he wouldn't be afraid to use Cespedes as a pinch-hitter Thursday against the Tigers, but he would prefer to avoid utilizing him defensively.

Cespedes' return would obviously be a welcomed one, particularly at the Coliseum, where he's batting .318, compared to a .194 showing on the road. Overall, he leads all rookies with five home runs, 21 RBIs and four stolen bases.

In Cespedes' place, Josh Reddick made his third consecutive start in center field Thursday, with Seth Smith starting in left and Michael Taylor manning right field.