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04/22/08 7:33 PM ET

Lowell getting closer to returning to Sox

Injured third baseman takes some hacks in cage before game

BOSTON -- There was nothing tentative about Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell as he took batting practice on Tuesday afternoon.

In taking his first BP swings since going on the disabled list, Lowell looked to be in good form and not favoring his sprained left thumb in the least.

If things continue to progress well for Lowell, he could play in Minor League games by this weekend.

Just by the logic of looking at the calendar, Lowell could be activated by April 29, when the Sox open their next homestand against the Blue Jays.

"He looked great," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "I was waiting to have him kind of nurse the bat through the zone. He looked great. Again, how he responds to that is important. But he really did look good. I was very impressed. I was very pleased. He looked terrific."

Lowell sustained his injury diving for a ground ball against the Tigers on April 9.

During his absence, Kevin Youkilis has played third base, with backup first baseman Sean Casey moving into the lineup on an everyday basis.

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