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Jose Canseco Eager To Return

Jose Canseco's recovery from back surgery is going so well that the slugger thinks he could return to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays sooner than expected to resume his quest for 500 career home runs.

"I think I'm two or three weeks ahead of schedule. If it were up to me, I'd be in the lineup in 10 or 11 days. But I only work here," the 35-year-old designated hitter said before Friday night's game against the Cleveland Indians.

Canseco had surgery for a herniated disc on July 11. Doctors said at the time that the earliest they expected him to be able to play again was Sept. 1.

Although trainers have been encouraged by his progress in rehabilitation workouts, the club is urging him to not get too far ahead of schedule.

"It's been amazing to see, but he still has more hurdles to cross," manager Larry Rothschild, noting Canseco hasn't even begun to swing a bat yet.

"He's progressed very rapidly. But if holding him back means we don't lose him (again), the obvious decision is you take your time."

Canseco led the AL with 31 homers when he was injured and hasn't given up hope that he can come back and regain the lead from Ken Griffey, Jr., who had 35 before Seattle played the New York Yankees Friday night.

He watched former teammate Mark McGwire hit his 500th career homer on television Thursday night and admitted he won't be satisfied with his career until he reaches the milestone, too.

Canseco, the only player in major league history to hit 30-plus homers in a season for four different teams, is 72 away from the mark.

"Before I die, I want to hit 500 home runs. These injuries will not keep me from it. I don't care if I have to have back surgery every year. It will not keep me from doing it," Canseco said.

"I'll play until I'm 45. ... I don't care what's in my future a broken leg, a broken ankle, a broken wrist, three or four more back surgeries. I guarantee you I'll get 500 home runs."

In an interview from his hospital bed the day after surgery, Canseco said he might consider retirement if he couldn't come back and swing the bat the way he thinks he's capable.

His progress in rehab, however, has bolstered his confidence that he still has some good years ahead of him.

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