CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Placido Polanco could laugh about it on Sunday. But the Phillies' veteran infielder admitted that, 24 hours earlier, he was "very scared."
X-rays of the ring finger on Polanco's left hand, which he jammed diving back to the bag on a pickoff play in the first inning of Saturday's exhibition game against the Blue Jays, were negative. However, when it happened, Polanco, whose health has become a continuing concern in recent years, immediately feared the worst.
"I don't know anything about medicine, but I thought it was really bad," admitted Polanco, who did not accompany the Phillies on their short road trip to Dunedin on Sunday, and who was under doctor's orders not to take batting practice or do anything else that might aggravate the injury.
"It's a little stiff today, there's a little swelling, but it's not a big thing," the 36-year-old All-Star third baseman explained. "They told me to take it easy. I jammed it and it's day to day. We've got to see how I feel every day."
Bottom line: Polanco suffered a sprain. The Phillies said he will probably miss only a couple of days.
That's welcome news for the Phillies, who are already without half of their aging infield with Ryan Howard and Chase Utley both sidelined indefinitely. The loss of Polanco for any substantial length of time could have been crippling.
"He could have broke his hand, he could have broke his wrist, he could have broke his arm, it could have been a lot worse," said manager Charlie Manuel.
Polanco, who is still recovering from sports hernia surgery last October, knew, at his age and plagued by injuries the past two years, entering the final year of his contract, he could ill afford another serious setback.
The 14-year-veteran has played sparingly this spring, appearing in just six games, but nevertheless expects to ready on Opening Day.
On Sunday, Ty Wigginton started at third base for the Phillies in their rematch against the Blue Jays -- a 10-2 loss for the Phils.
Although the bone in Polanco's finger did not break the skin Saturday, the accident was very painful.
"When it happened, I heard it pop. It hurt a lot. I looked at my finger, and it did not look good," Polanco recalled on Sunday, his eyes growing wide at the memory.
"I was very scared. It [the bone] was sticking straight up. I popped it back into place. Then I went back out there [in the field] the next inning.
"I was hoping nobody heard it pop," he added, with a sheepish smile.
An inning later, after a worried Polanco wisely let the folks in the Phillies' dugout know how much he was hurting, he left the game and headed for the X-ray machine.
Polanco, who led all Major League third basemen in fielding percentage (.977) last year, was elected to the All-Star team for the second time, and won his third Gold Glove. His first All-Star appearance (2007) and his other two Gold Gloves (2007, '09) came as a second baseman.
Polanco, who signed with the Phillies as a free agent in December 2009, after the Tigers let him go, went on the disabled list in 2010 with inflammation in his left elbow and twice last year with lower back inflammation and a sports hernia. He missed a total of 70 games the last two years.
In 2006, with the Tigers, Polanco was on the disabled list for more than month after he separated his left shoulder. But he bounced back from that injury to bat .412 in the American League Division Series against the Yankees and he was the MVP of the ALCS when he hit .529 against the A's.
Polanco broke in with the Cardinals in 1998, and was traded to the Phillies in 2002. The Phillies traded him to the Tigers, where he immediately became the everyday second baseman in 2005.
Jim Hawkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.