Notes: Miles ready to impress

Notes: Miles ready to impress

PHILADELPHIA -- Aaron Miles is quite convinced that he's ready for his close-up. Miles, named the Cardinals' Opening Day second baseman, fully expects that he won't relinquish the gig.

"I think that as of right now, I'm getting the playing time, so it's up to me to run with it and do it," he said Monday before making his regular-season Cardinals debut. "I consider myself the guy now. And if we continue to win ballgames and I continue to do what I have to do to play and be a good contributor to this club, I think I'm going to be in there."

Miles played the best of the three second-base candidates used by St. Louis this spring. Hector Luna earned a bench spot due to his defensive versatility and offensive potential, while Junior Spivey has been designated for assignment.

Spivey agreed that if he clears waivers he will go to Triple-A Memphis. Technically, designating Spivey for assignment means that the Cardinals have 10 days to release him, trade him or send him to the Minor Leagues -- but he must clear waivers to go to the Minors.

"He made a very intelligent choice, to go out and get the rust off," said manager Tony La Russa. "That's what he needs to do. He needs to play regularly and get back in the groove of playing. The way it was starting out, he wasn't going to get as much playing time, so it would not have been easy for him. A very smart choice."

Miles, a switch-hitter, will have to play well to continue to receive the lion's share of playing time. Luna will likely see some time against left-handed starters, and he will also play occasionally at other infield spots and in the outfield.

Luna has shown significantly more power than Miles, who has a career .366 slugging percentage (and a .320 on-base percentage) despite playing the vast majority of his career in Colorado. But Miles believes he can show more offensively.

"I look at my rookie season," he said. "I hit .294 or something like that (.293 for Colorado in 2004), and had a pretty good year, I would consider. I feel I'm better now than I was then, and there's no reason I can't hit .300 for this team and play great defense and do the things that you want in a second baseman."

Miles batted eighth in the Opening Day lineup.

Hancock's happy: For a pitcher to receive his release from the pitching-starved Reds would seem to be about as bad as it gets. But for right-hander Josh Hancock, being let go in February turned out to be quite a boon.

Hancock signed a Minor League deal with St. Louis soon after his release, and pitched his way into the Cards' bullpen. The official reason given for his release was that he was overweight, but Hancock is no bulkier than plenty of other hurlers.

"It was definitely a low point," said Hancock. "Definitely. I didn't expect them to be as harsh as they were publicly about whatever was going on. But everything is better now."

"I communicate with some of the guys [from Cincinnati]. Like Luke Hudson, he was in the same situation, he got released. He picked up with Kansas City and made the bullpen over there. We talked to each other about that. Honestly, they just gave us an opportunity to go somewhere else. That's really what it was."

Hancock did trim one number, though -- he shed his Spring Training, non-roster jersey No. 67 for something more suitable -- No. 32.

"I thought about keeping 67," he said. "It worked for me. If we get off to a rocky start, we're going back to 67."

Rodriguez recovering: Outfielder John Rodriguez, recovering from what the team calls a "left shoulder contusion," is listed as available to pinch-hit but not to play the outfield. Rodriguez said that he is not permitted to throw and likely will not be for the remainder of the Philadelphia series.

"It could have been worse," said Rodriguez. "I could have been out two months. To be a pinch-hitter this first series is good enough. It's a great situation for me."

Bits and pieces: Colby Rasmus, the Cardinals' first draft pick from last year, will open the season with Class A Quad Cities of the Midwest League. ... Former Cardinal Abraham Nunez started at third base for the Phils on Monday. ... Five Cardinals -- Hancock, Rodriguez, Skip Schumaker, Brad Thompson and Adam Wainwright -- are on an Opening Day roster for the first time in the Major Leagues.

Coming up: The Cardinals and Phils have an off day Tuesday before returning to work at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday evening. Mark Mulder will make his first start of the season against Philadelphia's Brett Myers. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m. CT, with television coverage on FOX Sports Net Midwest.

In the interim, Sidney Ponson will start for Double-A Springfield against Triple-A Memphis in an exhibition game at the new Busch Stadium. The start time for that game is also 6:05 p.m. CT.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.