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06/17/08 6:31 PM ET

Hairston's recovery going well

Reds shortstop could begin Minors rehab stint next week

CINCINNATI -- Injured Reds infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. is making speedy progress with his fractured left thumb and could begin a Minor League rehabilitation assignment as soon as next week.

Hairston began hitting and fielding grounders on Sunday. After taking Monday off, he took batting practice and did more fielding on Tuesday.

"As of right now, being a week into it, I feel a lot better than expected," Hairston said. "I'm very pleased. Hopefully, I can be back sooner than later."

Hairston was stealing second base on June 9 at Florida when his thumb was inadvertently stepped on by the Marlins' Jorge Cantu. The diagnosis was a non-displaced fracture of the thumb, which was considered the best possible news under the circumstances because it meant a shorter recovery time.

If progress continues, Hairston planned to travel with the team to New York this weekend and start a rehab assignment when the Reds head to Toronto.

"Fielding is going to be the last to come. Hitting is getting there," Hairston said. "There's going to be a little pain. The worst thing is catching and squeezing. But the good thing about it is it's my non-throwing hand."

With injuries to both Alex Gonzalez and Jeff Keppinger, Hairston emerged and filled in strongly at shortstop. He is batting .336 with one home run and 14 RBIs in 40 games.

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