CHICAGO – Chicago Cubs shortstop Nomar Garciaparra said he is recovering faster than he expected from surgery to repair a ruptured tendon in his left groin and hopes to return for the final two months of the regular season.

“Physically, I feel pretty good right now,” said Garciaparra, who is on the 60-day disabled list.

Garciaparra is taking ground balls and batting practice and doing some light running, but he has difficulty pushing off.

He said his strength and stamina are increasing, and hopes to start running the bases next week.

“Before, I couldn’t do a crunch or a sit-up,” he said before Friday’s game between the Cubs and the Nationals. “A few weeks ago, on the 10th one, I was like, It’s too much.’ Now, I’m able to do 50.”

He plans to spend the weekend in Chicago before returning to Arizona.

“With the injury he had, the biggest hurdle is everything,” Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s an injury to his core, which controls everything: getting out of bed, getting in and out of the car, getting up and down, hitting, fielding, throwing.”

Garciaparra was batting .157 with no home runs and four RBIs in 14 games when he slipped running out of the batters box at St. Louis in late April.

He plans to rehab in the minor leagues before returning to the Cubs.

Thome placed on DL

PHILADELPHIA – The Phillies placed first baseman Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list Friday with tendinitis in his right elbow.

It’s Thome’s second stint on the DL this season. He was placed on the DL in May with a lower back strain and missed 19 games.

“I just want to get this thing healed up so we can get back going in the second half,” Thome said before Friday’s game against Atlanta.

Thome has struggled this season, hitting .207 with seven home runs and 30 RBIs. He has only 14 extra-base hits in 193 at-bats.

New format for HR Derby

NEW YORK – Major league baseball is going international for its Home Run Derby on All-Star weekend.

Instead of having four players from each league, the commissioner’s office said Friday it will have eight players represent their native countries at the July 11 event.

Major league baseball plans to formally launch plans that day for its first World Baseball Classic, a 16-team event during spring training next year.

This year’s Home Run Derby is at Detroit’s pitcher-friendly Comerica Park, where the All-Star game will be played the following night.

The top four players in the first round advance to the semifinals, and the top two in the semis move on to the final.

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