Placido Polanco, cleanup man living 15 minutes from work, loves life

Miami Marlins Placido Polanco singles in two runners in the seventh inning against the New York Mets in a baseball game at Citi Field, Friday, April 5, 2013 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

MIAMI — Placido Polanco's home is 15 minutes from Marlins Park, one of the luxuries the 37-year-old former Phillies third baseman currently enjoys. The other is health, a difficult ambition in recent seasons. Oh, he is also Miami's cleanup hitter.

"If nobody called, that was good enough," Polanco said Friday. "I'd stay with the family. I've done enough. I've played baseball my entire life."

The Marlins, needing to somehow fill a roster of major-leaguers, called and offered $2.75 million. He is hitting fourth for the first time in his 16-year career. His job is to protect Giancarlo Stanton, one of the game's finest power talents.

When Stanton was scratched shortly before first pitch Friday, Polanco moved up to third. He batted fourth in four of the Marlins' first nine games.

Polanco's time with the Phillies concluded before the 2012 season did. The Phillies placed Polanco on the disabled list last Sept. 5, even though it was an needless transaction because of expanded rosters. A few days later, Polanco left the team for good.

"It was a little bit of a confusing situation," Polanco said. "But I was hurt. My back was hurting. I think it was very nice of them just letting me go home and rest it. I think it helped me. Here I am."

Polanco started 318 of a possible 486 games during the span of his three-year, $18 million deal with the Phillies. He batted .281 with a .686 OPS and won a Gold Glove in 2011.

The 37-year-old infielder was sidelined early in Marlins camp with a sore back. It's a chronic issue that will linger as long as he plays. The Marlins are hoping to squeeze one more productive season from the veteran.

Miami invested in a plethora of former Phillies. They started Greg Dobbs at first base Friday. Juan Pierre led off. Chad Qualls is in the bullpen.

Polanco sometimes clashed with management's decisions regarding health and playing time in Philadelphia. His relationship with the team, especially near the end, appeared contentious. On Friday, he thanked general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and team president David Montgomery but did not mention Charlie Manuel.

He received a Christmas gift from the team. "My family said, 'Wow. What a classy organization.' We think the world of them."

His new reality — that of a clinging veteran on a hapless team — requires adjustments. Polanco played against his manager, Mike Redmond, for years. Tino Martinez, the hitting coach, was his teammate in St. Louis. One of his teammates, Jose Fernandez, was born two years before Polanco was drafted.

But, when the Marlins are home, Polanco is too. He can take his kids to school and life is well.

"You couldn't get any more familiar," Polanco said.

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