Veteran Cora eager to contribute to Cardinals

Veteran Cora eager to contribute to Cardinals

JUPITER, Fla. -- After making just four starts during the second half of the 2011 season, Alex Cora found himself entertaining few offers this offseason. However, the 36-year-old said on Tuesday, after completing his first workout in Cardinals camp, that he never did prepare for the possibility of retiring.

Instead, Cora is now preparing for a six-week battle to earn a spot on his seventh different Major League roster. Invited to camp under a Minor League deal, Cora will be considered for a utility infield role.

"At this level, I'm going to play until someone says, 'No,'" Cora said. "I'm healthy, and I'm in a good situation where I think I can help this team win."

Last year, Cora had little opportunity to prove that, in his 14th big league season, he could still be a valuable infielder at this level. He got some starts at third with Washington early in the year when Ryan Zimmerman missed time with a left abdominal strain. Third base had actually been a fairly unfamiliar spot for Cora before that point.

He's made 616 Major League appearances at short and another 530 at second. Thirty-one of his 48 career third-base appearances came in 2011, and Cora has played another 13 games at first. He remains most comfortable at short, the position he played most regularly after being drafted in 1996.

How Cora fits on this club could hinge on what happens in the second-base competition between Daniel Descalso, Skip Schumaker and Tyler Greene. The two who do not win the starting job would likely remain on the roster as backup infielders, though Schumaker could also serve as a backup outfielder. If outfielder Allen Craig is also healthy, that would leave manager Mike Matheny with just one additional open bench spot to fill.

"Organizations look for players that have a lot of gloves in their locker, but at the same time are good players," Cora said. "I don't think I have to prove myself. I just think I have to come here and earn my spot. Everybody knows what I can do."