Pain-free Polanco providing impact

Pain-free Polanco providing impact

MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time since Spring Training, Placido Polanco is playing without pain. For the first time this season, his numbers are reflecting it.

Detroit's second baseman and second hitter missed five games with an inflamed nerve in his back that affected him whenever he moved, whether at the plate or in the field. Since returning to action a week and a half ago, he's batting 14-for-38 through Saturday with four doubles, two home runs, nine runs scored and five RBIs. That includes a 10-for-23 tear over a five-game hitting streak.

When the Tigers began the current week-long road trip to New York and Minnesota, manager Jim Leyland said he would play Polanco's situation by ear and check with him if he needed a day off this weekend. Saturday marked his ninth consecutive start since returning, and Leyland wasn't sure whether he'd need to rest Polanco on Sunday.

It's not a matter of fighting through the last of the inflammation. Polanco said Friday he felt fine.

"It's good," Polanco said. "It's the best that I've felt in a while, including Spring Training."

The understanding that Polanco reached with Leyland when he returned to action was that he would tell Leyland whenever he needed a day off. That put the responsibility on Polanco to be honest with how he was feeling. He tried to play through the back problems when the season began until the nerve was so inflamed that it left his left leg numb one night during the Tigers' series at Toronto.

Polanco explained the discomfort was much more manageable when it bothered him in the spring.

"We played for a month, and I had this since Spring Training," Polanco said. "It's just that the weather was helping me out [in Florida], and I didn't play the whole game, just the first five innings. I'd run every day."

At this point, there isn't much to manage. The inflammation is gone, and doctors told Polanco that once it was, there's no reason it should resurface.

The lack of inflammation affects everything Polanco does.

"Without a doubt," Polanco said. "The way I'm moving, right, left, running, mood-wise, everything [is better]."

Jason Beck is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.