Miles' flexibility gives La Russa options
Utility man one of three Cards middle infielders hitting at .300
DENVER -- Aaron Miles made his fourth start of the season at shortstop Monday night in Colorado, keeping manager Tony La Russa's quartet of middle infielders sharp as Cesar Izturis took the night off.
"Miles needs a game, and it's a good time," La Russa pointed out before the series opener with the Rockies. "Izturis played over the weekend. Miles has played enough shortstop to where he's a good guy to help us win."
Since coming to St. Louis in 2006, Miles -- who got his big league break as the Rockies second baseman from 2004-05 -- has played 187 games at second, 83 at short, five at third, one in left field and two late-inning appearances on the pitcher's mound. Working with Izturis at short, Adam Kennedy at second, and Brendan Ryan at both, Miles has learned to make a seamless transition from one middle-infield position to another.
"It's easier now that I've done it for a couple years," Miles said of his versatility up the middle. "At the beginning, it's tough, because just the thinking, 'If the ball's hit here, where am I going to go with it?' Thinking of the speed of the runners. Things that just come naturally at second, because I've played there so long. But now, I feel like I've been [at shortstop] long enough that I know where to make the plays and do everything. I'm still thinking about it, but I'm just more confident in my thinking."
Taking Izturis' place in the lineup Monday, Miles found himself hitting ninth, following the pitcher. He's hit throughout the lineup in his 14 starts this season, and he's developing a fondness for the nine-hole.
"The difference is you don't have the pitcher batting behind you, and it's pretty nice," Miles said. "The seventh hitter has to deal with the pitcher batting behind him. Now, in this lineup, you have one of the better leadoff hitters in the league right now with Skip Schumaker hitting behind you -- good thing to have. If you're going to bat down in the lineup, I'd rather hit ninth than hit eighth in front of the pitcher. We like it."
Entering the game hitting .311, Miles has given his manager much to like with his productive at-bats. The four middle infielders are hitting a collective .293, with all but Izturis hitting over .300, giving La Russa an embarrassment of riches to choose from on any given night.
"Tony's got a real good problem to have," Miles noted. "Obviously, it's not a problem when you have four real good middle infielders that are all playing good. He can go with any matchup he wants. He can put the right-handers against the lefties, put the lefties against the righty. With me and Cesar being switch-hitters, there's a lot of versatility. We're going to run with it. Hopefully, nobody gets hurt and he has the option all season long."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.