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Bucs preparing final stages of Stewart's rehab

CINCINNATI -- One week into his rehab assignment, and less than a month since the surgery on his right knee, Chris Stewart may have already passed the ultimate physical test for his return.

According to the catcher's own reports to manager Clint Hurdle during phone conversations between the men, Stewart caught seven innings for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday and all of a four hours-plus game on Sunday -- "and he said he felt good [Monday], which is a good sign," Hurdle said.

Which, in turn, may be a sign that when the Pirates leave Cincinnati on Wednesday night and arrive home, Stewart may be there waiting for them.

Not necessarily to be activated yet, but the staff is exploring the possibility of the veteran concluding his rehab requirements with the big club. Hurdle and bench coach Jeff Banister got with head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk to discuss their options.

"We're finalizing the last bit of Chris' return-to-play program," Hurdle said, "and just have to run it by [general manager Neal Huntington]."

The manager wanted to avoid leaving the impression that there is a greater urgency for Stewart's return in the wake of Tony Sanchez's two-run throwing error in Sunday's game in Milwaukee. The Pirates signed Stewart to a $1 million contract after acquiring him in a trade from the Yankees and understandably are eager to get value from that deal.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer.
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