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03/29/08 2:29 PM ET

Sanchez says he's ready to play

Bucs second baseman credits treatment for recovery

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, second baseman Freddy Sanchez said that he feels healthy enough to take his position on the field in the team's opener in Atlanta on Monday.

"I think I'm ready," Sanchez said after an intense on-field workout Saturday morning. "Obviously that's at [manager John Russell's] discretion, but we went through a lot of work and I'm ready."

Sanchez played in portions of the team's Minor League games Thursday and Friday, but, under the direction of management, did not overexert himself in any of his throws. That all changed on Saturday.

The All-Star second baseman, who is dealing with inflammation in his right rotator cuff, turned double plays, fielded ground balls up the middle and in the gap and made throws to first at close to full effort.

Afterward, Sanchez reported no discomfort in his shoulder for the third straight day.

"It felt good," he said. "There were no setbacks like last time."

As a result, Sanchez will board the plane with his teammates after Saturday's game to head north to Atlanta. He spent Saturday afternoon over at Pirate City to get some at-bats and will test how his shoulder responds again Sunday during the team's afternoon workout in Atlanta.

Sanchez said the fact he never tested his shoulder full throttle during a Major League Spring Training game is not a concern since he has been able to field an adequate number of ground balls.

The positive assessment on his status is in stark contrast to the concern he had expressed in recent days. He admitted again Saturday that just days ago, taking the field with his teammates on Opening Day seemed a long shot at best.

"Honestly, I'm very surprised," Sanchez said. "There was a lot of praying and a lot of people praying for me to get back on the field -- and not just back on the field, but to get back on the field injury-free. I thank God that it's worked. I'm very blessed."

Sanchez continued by crediting little of his improvement actually to himself, noting that it's been very much a group effort this week to get him ready. He said his recovery seems to have been expedited by his use of electrostatic therapy on the area of his shoulder bothered by inflammation.

"We did a lot more of [it] this week," Sanchez said. "We've been doing it since Day 1, but now my wife has been doing it religiously at night lately."

In addition to help from his wife, Alissa, and the team's medical staff, Sanchez was paid a visit by William and Yvonne Griffith -- the couple that sold Sanchez the Hivamat therapy machine he uses -- who drove down to Bradenton to help administer the treatment over the past week.

Without their help, Sanchez said he doesn't think he would have been ready.

"It was a combination of things, and there are a lot of people to thank, not just me," Sanchez said. "There were just a lot of people in this process that got me back on the field."

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