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09/10/08 2:27 PM ET

Guillen's return still up in air

Third baseman expected back in action before season's end

DETROIT -- Tigers third baseman Carlos Guillen was feeling "much better" as of Wednesday, according to manager Jim Leyland, but he remains a distance away from returning to action.

Guillen, sidelined since late August with soreness in his lower back, has been moving around better and swinging the bat without taking batting practice. However, there's no timetable for his return, and the earliest possible date keeps getting pushed back. Leyland said Wednesday he "would doubt very much" that Guillen would be able to play Friday at Chicago.

At some point, the Tigers would theoretically have to reach a decision whether Guillen will play again at all this year. However, Leyland fully expects Guillen will be back at some point before the season finale in 2 1/2 weeks. Plus, since he isn't on the disabled list with rosters expanded to 40 players, the Tigers wouldn't have to make a roster move once it's decided he's ready.

The bigger matter is how ready and effective Guillen will be once he's physically able to return. He has missed two weeks at this point, and he has not taken batting practice. With the Minor League seasons over and both Dontrelle Willis and Freddy Garcia past the point of simulated games, Guillen will likely have to settle for batting practice to get his timing back.

Jeff Larish made his eighth start at third base Wednesday. Shortstop Edgar Renteria and second baseman Placido Polanco had the day off, with Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn starting in their respective places. Matt Joyce started in right field in place of Magglio Ordonez, who sat in part to rest some minor back stiffness.

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