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07/06/10 7:36 PM ET

Choo might avoid surgery to injured thumb

ARLINGTON -- Shin-Soo Choo might be back in the Indians' lineup sooner than initially anticipated.

Hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham examined Choo's sprained right thumb at the Cleveland Clinic on Tuesday and did not discover a ligament tear, meaning Choo has a good chance of avoiding the surgery that would have cost him up to two months of action.

Head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff said Choo's thumb, which was injured on a diving attempt to nab a Jack Cust double Friday night, will remain in a brace for a week to 10 days before Graham evaluates it again and makes the final call.

"If you compare his right thumb to his left, there's not any significant difference [in stability]," Soloff said. "That leads Tom to believe Choo can work through this non-operatively."

Assuming that does turn out to be the case, Choo would, after the seven-to-10-day shutdown, begin what Soloff called an "aggressive return-to-hit program."

Soloff, however, stopped short of offering a timetable for Choo's return to the Tribe, in that scenario. Still, the return would likely be sooner than the six- to eight-week timeframe initially reported.

While losing Choo for any period of time is not a welcomed development for the Indians, Tuesday's update on Choo was a bit of a relief.

"It's good news," manager Manny Acta said. "We're still going to have to wait 10 days to see where that takes us. But it will be a great boost for us if he doesn't need surgery and we can have him back a lot sooner than we were anticipating."

Choo, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list Sunday, is leading the Indians in most offensive categories. He's batting .286 with 13 homers and 43 RBIs in 78 games and has been the most consistent threat in an inconsistent offense.

The thumb injury cost Choo any chance of getting selected by American League manager Joe Girardi for his first All-Star Game. But if it doesn't cost him a full two months, he'll probably get over it.

"He's certainly encouraged," Soloff said.

And so are the Indians.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. He blogs about baseball at CastroTurf. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.