02/18/10 3:20 PM EST
Polanco preparing to handle hot corner
Vet working tirelessly on transition from second to third
By Todd Zolecki / MLB.com
His new team is his old team.
Polanco signed a three-year, $18 million contract this offseason to rejoin the Phillies, who traded him to the Tigers in 2005 for Ugueth Urbina and Ramon Martinez. The Phils traded Polanco because they had Chase Utley at second base and David Bell at third base, which meant Polanco had nowhere to play on an everyday basis. They also needed bullpen help after Tim Worrell left the team for personal reasons.
But with Philadelphia parting ways with Pedro Feliz after the 2009 World Series, the club had an opening at third base.
Polanco jumped at the opportunity.
"I have an idea here," he said with a smile before the Phillies' pitchers and catchers held their first official workout.
Polanco and the rest of the position players will have their first workout Tuesday, but in the meantime, he will be taking plenty of ground balls at third base.
Polanco's shift from second -- where he won two Gold Gloves in three years with the Tigers -- to third is one of this spring's storylines in Clearwater. Polanco has played 321 games at third in his career, but none since 2005, when he played eight games there for the Phillies and one there for the Tigers.
"This offseason, I really worked hard, taking ground balls at third, long tossing and doing what I think is right," said Polanco, who worked out with a friend at a high school near his home in Miami. "I've taken more ground balls than I probably have before. Building up my arm -- I like it. It's not like riding a bike [going back to third]. It's a longer throw. There are different thoughts -- where you have to go on a base hit, things like that.
"I'm not too worried, because in Spring Training we play a lot of games, and I'm pretty sure I'll be seeing a lot of action in the field. That's when you have to get your mind ready. You have to focus more."
Polanco said he worked out at third nearly 30 minutes every day over the winter.
"I also had to do weights. I had to run. I had to do other stuff," Polanco said. "I had to pick up the kids at school. A half-hour taking ground balls for one person is a lot. It's like hitting. If you hit 15 minutes with a group, you might have four or five guys hitting with you. But if you're hitting 10 minutes by yourself ... you know what I mean? Of course, some of that was talking. OK, so maybe 20 minutes. Twenty and 10."
A lifetime .303 hitter and one of the most difficult players in baseball to strike out, Polanco is expected to hit second between leadoff man Jimmy Rollins and No. 3 hitter Utley. That will allow manager Charlie Manuel to drop Shane Victorino as low as seventh, giving the Phillies more potency and speed at the bottom of the lineup.
But the big question is: can Polanco play third again?
Manuel said he isn't worried.
"Feliz definitely had one of the strongest and most accurate arms at third base in baseball," Manuel said. "He was that good as far as his throwing. Polanco has quick feet at third base. Third base is a reaction kind of place. Polly definitely can do that. Polly does throw good. He is accurate. All around with the bat and everything, he's a better player than Feliz. ... I don't see where we're going to get hurt there."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.