People heard that a lot when the Phillies signed Polanco to a three-year, $18 million contract in December. They heard how he puts the ball in play. How he moves runners. How he hits the ball to the opposite field seemingly at will.
They heard how smart he is.
How he is a gamer.
But on Monday, in the 1,466th game of his big league career, Polanco, the guy manager Charlie Manuel plugged into the No. 2 spot in the lineup because he does the little things so well, hit the second grand slam of his career on his way to a career-high six RBIs in an 11-1 victory over Washington at Nationals Park on Opening Day.
Polanco couldn't have imagined a better day.
"I'm OK. I feel good," Polanco said. "This is a career high for me in RBIs. You can't beat that. I know how hard the game is. You try to stay humble, because the game can turn around at any time."
The Phillies brought back Polanco -- whom they traded to the Tigers in 2005 -- to replace Pedro Feliz, who played an excellent third base the previous two seasons. But Polanco is a better offensive player than Feliz, and the Phillies like to inject new life into their roster every offseason to keep it fresh.
Polanco, a career .303 hitter, showed early that he is capable of doing just that.
"Polanco is a heck of a player, man," Manuel said. "He's a heck of a hitter. That's why we brought him back over here. He was good when he left. He's still good."
And he makes the lineup even better. Polanco's arrival means that Shane Victorino is hitting seventh, and that gives the Phillies seven All-Stars in the first seven spots in their lineup.
"[Carlos] Ruiz is a clutch hitter in the playoffs, and he's hitting eighth for us," said Polanco. "It seems like you can flip the lineup around and it's still good. ... When I left here, those guys were coming up -- Chase [Utley], [Ryan] Howard, all those guys. You could see the talent. You could see it was just a matter of time before they put it together. They've won the division three times in a row and won the World Series."
The Phillies hope that Polanco's presence atop the lineup gives them a more potent offense, thus giving them a chance at winning a second title.
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less