(Reuters) - Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton made a surprise return to the team on Tuesday, working his way back from injuryahead of schedule with a pinch-hit single.

Stanton hurt his left groin last month and was expected to need six weeks of recovery, but he was activated in about half that time after he took part in a simulated game and was evaluated by doctors on Tuesday. He delivered a hit in the fifth inning, and was removed for a pinch-runner, as the Marlins lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3.

"We had a feeling this was coming, honestly," Miami manager Don Mattingly told reporters. "Quite honestly, he wanted us to downplay it.

"He’s basically a bat off the bench right now, and he will continue to rehab. We're not talking about him being in right field three days from now. That's not going to happen. But I do expect it to happen at some point."

Stanton’s addition could boost the team’s outside chance of chasing down a playoff spot. The Marlins (68-71) are six games out of the second Wild Card spot in the National League.

For the season, Stanton is batting .246 with 25 home runs and 70 RBIs. The franchise’s top player, Stanton’s 2015 campaign was cut short when he suffered a season-ending hand injury after 74 games.

(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)