JUPITER, Fla. -- An old Spring Training axiom holds that as long as you're in camp, you've still got a chance. D'Angelo Jimenez is seeing the truth in that motto these days.

As recently as Tuesday, Jimenez looked like an extreme long shot to make the Cardinals. It appeared that Brendan Ryan had the sixth infield spot locked up, and Jimenez would be headed to Triple-A Memphis. However, now that Ryan is battling a strained muscle in his ribcage area, Jimenez's profile is on the rise.

Jimenez got the start at shortstop on Friday with Cesar Izturis getting the day off -- an assignment that otherwise would likely have gone to Ryan.

"That's part of why he has an opportunity in this organization," manager Tony La Russa said, "because he can play second, short or third."

Jimenez entered the game hitting .136 with a .240 on-base percentage and a .318 slugging percentage, but he believes his numbers have been misleading. A lifetime .263/.351/.377 hitter, he's shown that he has the bat to contribute in the Major Leagues.

"I've been hitting the ball pretty good, but right to people," he said. "I feel comfortable and I'm just trying to play the game that I play, just let it go."

One issue for Jimenez has been his approach at the plate. He's a patient hitter who has averaged a walk for every 7.4 at-bats in his big league career. But La Russa feels that at times this spring, Jimenez has been overly patient, taking strikes in RBI situations when he should be trying to put the ball in play.

"Sometimes it's difficult," Jimenez said. "I want to be selective, but I want to be aggressive, too."

Over the years, though, Jimenez's offense hasn't been an issue. The questions are his defense and the consistency of his game. La Russa, who earlier in camp called out Jimenez for his inconsistency, said Friday that he's confident the infielder will handle himself capably in the field.

"Most of the time, he's caught the ball with sure hands and thrown accurately," La Russa said. "He hasn't struggled defensively. He had a bad game that one time where he made two plays that weren't all that pretty. But the rest of the time, his hands have been good and his arm has been accurate."