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07/29/08 10:40 PM ET

Guzman's sore thumb feeling better

Nationals hope to have All-Star shortstop back by the weekend

WASHINGTON -- Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman said his left thumb is feeling better, and the club hopes to have him back in the starting lineup by this weekend against the Reds.

Yet Guzman will see Dr. Richard Barth on Wednesday for a precautionary MRI on his thumb.

Contrary to what manager Manny Acta said in Los Angeles, Guzman said he hurt his thumb while playing against the Reds during the first week in July and aggravated it last week against the Giants.

"I feel a lot better today," Guzman said. "I can play defense, but I can't handle the bat."

Guzman, who said he will attempt to swing in the batting cage on Wednesday, hasn't played in the past three games because of a left thumb contusion.

Meanwhile, Elijah Dukes has been promoted to Triple-A Columbus and was 0-for-4 against Norfolk on Monday.

Dukes, on the 15-day disabled list, hasn't played for the Nationals since July 5 because of a left knee injury.

According to a baseball source, the team is shooting for Thursday for Dukes to return to the Nationals. If not, then later in the week. Once he is activated from the disabled list, Dukes will be the everyday left fielder, while Willie Harris would return to the bench.

Aaron Boone said his left calf is getting better. He was able to work on the treadmill and hit in the batting cage on Tuesday. He had hoped to be activated from the DL last week while the team was in San Francisco, but he suffered a setback and had to remain on the DL. For that reason, Boone declined on Tuesday to give a timetable for his return.

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