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Jesse Crain could return before deadline

CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox reliever Jesse Crain threw 33 pitches in a bullpen session Monday and could return from the disabled list a few days before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

Crain, who has been out since July 3 with a right elbow strain, was expected to be an attractive trade piece because of his dominating season. He had 29 consecutive scoreless appearances into late June, with a sparkling 0.74 ERA this season.

He was named to the American League All-Star team, but didn’t pitch in the game because of the injury.

“He felt good,” pitching coach Don Cooper said. “The juggling act for us today was it was his first time on the mound. We want to do enough work without doing too much. We want to do it to the point where he's maybe a tad fatigued, making sure you've got that good workout in and feel good before, during and after. Now we're waiting on the after which is tomorrow.”

If all goes well, Crain will have another side session Thursday. Cooper said Crain could even return without heading out on a minor league rehab assignment.

“I'll put it this way, how many innings did he have in spring training? One,” Cooper said. “And here we go, he was off to another better year, each year better for us. First year he came over from Minnesota, career-best year. Next year, better. This year, better. Each year he's been getting better as far as the production he's given us on the field. So we know what he's giving us.”

Cooper didn’t necessarily pinpoint an exact day that Crain might return, instead creating a window of Sunday to July 30 when the right-hander might be ready to come back.

Crain, who has gone through a similar injury at least two other times in his career, has been trying to take his DL stint in stride.

“Yeah, you don’t want this to happen,” he said. “I didn’t have a chance to pitch in the All-Star Game or anything but some things you can’t control. I’m just taking it day by day and I want to get back so I can get ready for the rest of the season.”

With a number of contenders looking for bullpen help down the stretch, Crain still could land the White Sox a decent return in a trade if he can show in one or two outings that he is healthy again.