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Byrdak progressing in return from shoulder injury

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- He may not have salvaged his career just yet, but Tim Byrdak is certainly talking like a pitcher who expects to return to the big leagues.

Byrdak, who underwent surgery last summer to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder, is targeting a return by July 1. He believes he may even be able to pitch sometime in June, a possibility that he referred to as "icing on the cake."

"It was really emotional when I was diagnosed because it was almost like a death sentence," said Byrdak, who will turn 40 this year. "But the thought process always was, 'Hey, let's get it fixed, and let's see where it goes from here and how it bounces back, and see where it goes.'"

Unlike Johan Santana and Chris Young, who underwent similar surgeries and needed significantly more time to recover, Byrdak believes his rehab will be accelerated due to the nature of his operation. Byrdak's shoulder capsule ripped off the bone with its structure intact, whereas Santana and Young suffered damage to the capsule itself.

Byrdak's plan is to throw off flat ground this week under club supervision, then return home to Illinois to work out in private. If all goes well, he will fly back to Florida at the end of February, remaining here until his rehab is complete.

The left-hander, who led the Majors in appearances at the time of his injury, insisted that short-term overuse was not to blame for his injury.

"You can't pin it on just my workload here," Byrdak said. "That's kind of the life of a lefty reliever. The manager has to play the statistics, and you just never know what part of the game [you're going to be needed]."

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