DETROIT -- Just when one prominent Tigers hitter returns to the lineup, another has his name scratched.

Designated hitter Gary Sheffield, who has missed the last two games with a torn tendon in his left ring finger, will assume his usual No. 3 spot on Sunday night against the White Sox. But second baseman Placido Polanco didn't start because of soreness in his lower back. He is day-to-day.

Ramon Santiago will make his first start this season at second base and bat ninth.

Polanco told manager Jim Leyland after Saturday game that his lower back felt "tight."

"I'll see how he feels [later] and see if he can pinch-hit," Leyland said before Sunday night's game. "I have to be careful, because I only have three bench players."

Leyland also said he does not believe Polanco's back is to blame for his slow start at the plate. The All-Star second baseman has a .087 average through five games.

Sheffield will not wear a splint when he bats, as originally thought, and instead he'll have the finger taped. His injury occurred while he slid into second base in a bang-bang play Thursday against Kansas City, and he has missed the first two games against the White Sox.

Sheffield said he took rounds of batting practice before Saturday's game and felt well enough to play in Sunday night's nationally televised game. He said the finger does not limit his ability to swing with his normal force but feels "a little bit different."

"As long as I don't think about it," Sheffield said, "and just go up there, and just focus on what I need to focus on, there should have no problems."

Miguel Cabrera's leg soreness has passed and he will start at third base. Catcher Ivan Rodriguez bats leadoff for the first time this season, needing one hit for 2,500 in his career. Brandon Inge starts in center field, and Marcus Thames gets his second start this season in left field and will bat second.