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03/19/11 5:45 PM ET

Finger injury sidelines Donald for start of season

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The news wasn't good for Jason Donald. But, in a sense, he was relieved that at least there was news.

Donald, who entered camp as the Indians' projected Opening Day third baseman, has a small crack in the left middle finger on the back of his hand, and will be sidelined for the start of the regular season, the Indians confirmed on Saturday.

After other diagnostic tests failed to show the crack, a CT scan on the hand revealed the injury, leaving the 26-year-old with mixed feelings of frustration and relief.

"I'm glad we got the [CT] scan done, and I'm glad that we finally figured out what's going on, because that gives us a plan of what we're going to do -- instead of just kind of being in limbo, not being sure," Donald said on Friday at the Indians' complex.

Donald will be restricted from baseball activities for the next seven days, at which point he'll begin a program to return to hitting, according to Indians trainer Lonnie Soloff.

"We're hoping to have Jason in game activities in early April," Soloff said, referring to a Minor League rehabilitation setting, as opposed to the Majors -- meaning his return to the big leagues would be several days after that, if all goes well.

In the meantime, the Indians have an opening at third base.

Indians manager Manny Acta said that the spot is now open to non-roster invitee Jack Hannahan, as well as Luis Valbuena and Jayson Nix. He said Hannahan, who has played 251 games at third base in the Majors, has put himself in a good position to win the spot with his performance this spring -- including a .400 average through his first 35 at-bats. A player would have to be removed from the 40-man roster to make room for Hannahan.

"Jack Hannahan has had a good camp so far, and he's played third base in the past," Acta said. "We have to work past the issue of him being a non-roster guy, but he certainly has played very well."

One would-be candidate Acta made very clear would not be in the mix -- for what the Indians hope is a temporary fix until Donald returns -- is top Minor League prospect Lonnie Chisenhall, who was sent out to Minor League camp earlier in the week, and is ticketed for his first action at the Triple-A level.

"Why would you bring him over here for just a week or two?" Acta said.

The flip side: Why wouldn't you?

"He is not finished with his development, it's as simple as that," Acta said. "We're not going to cave in to knee-jerk reactions over Spring Training."

Donald was hit by a pitch on the back of his left hand on March 5, and suffered what was diagnosed as a bone bruise. X-rays, fluoroscan and MRI scans did not pick up the small crack at the base of his finger. When Donald continued to have pain in the area, he was administered a CT scan on the hand -- which showed that there was a crack.

Soloff said that even with the CT scan, only one of the two radiologists the club uses while in Arizona was able to identify the crack. He added that the CT scan already shows signs of healing.

Donald will wear a protective splint at night to ensure he doesn't do something awkward to the hand in his sleep, and he'll continue to play catch in the coming days before his hitting program resumes -- using a bucket of balls instead of receiving throws with his glove hand.

"We'll keep him as fit as possible until the other baseball activities come along," Soloff said.

After the injury, Donald played six games before shutting it down, and compiled a .308 average (4-for-13) during that time. When he continued to feel pain, not only swinging but playing defense, more red flags went up and the CT scan became necessary.

"Now, looking back, it does make sense that I had the pain that I continued to feel," Donald said. "But that's how it goes. I wanted to get back out there. I wanted to play, and put that soreness behind me and do what I could, but it wasn't allowing me to work or really do anything. It was frustrating because it didn't feel like I was making any progress with it."

For Donald, who made his Major League debut last year and split his time between shortstop and second base, the injury means his opportunity to be in the Opening Day lineup is lost.

But there's a lot of season to go after that, so he's focusing on that.

"It's a little disappointing, but right now I'm looking forward, I'm looking ahead," Donald said. "The only thing I'm focused on right now is resting it, getting it healthy, and getting it ready for the season."

John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.