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Notes: Miles gets the nod at second

Notes: Miles gets the nod at second

JUPITER, Fla. -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa formally named switch-hitting infielder Aaron Miles the team's Opening Day second baseman on Saturday morning before the Cardinals' 2-1 loss to the New York Mets in their Spring Training finale.

Miles, 5-foot-8 and 177 pounds, narrowly beat out proven veteran and former All-Star Junior Spivey and Hector Luna for the starting spot, and will most likely bat eighth in the batting order in Monday's opener at 2:05 p.m. CT at Philadelphia.

La Russa said Spivey and Luna "are losing playing time to the guy that was the underdog," but the move is not permanent.

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"Right now, Aaron is going to play Opening Day," La Russa said. "I will try in that first week or 10 days to make sure everybody plays somewhere, sometime. Some guys are going to get more playing time than others.

"I'm going to go in there and try to win the first series, and I know Aaron is going to play the first game, and if he does a nice job, he has a chance to play in the second one. [If] he doesn't do a good job, someone else will play."

Spivey said he wasn't going to make any excuses for a lackluster spring, in which he hit just .152 and committed five errors.

"At the beginning of the [regular] season, you've got a clean slate," Spivey said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. It's just been a bad spring -- what can you say?"

Miles missed almost two weeks of games after jamming his left hand. Since then, the 29-year-old, entering his third season in the Major Leagues, had seven hits in 14 at-bats and struck out only once in 34 at-bats this spring. The Cardinals acquired Miles in a Dec. 7 trade from the Colorado Rockies, along with outfielder Larry Bigbie, for lefty reliever Ray King.

Miles started at second and batted eighth on Saturday, and fielded two ground balls cleanly at the top of the first inning, and lined a single to right in his first at-bat in the third. In the top of the fourth, with two men on, Carlos Delgado hit a sharp grounder to Miles, who quickly started a 4-6-3 double play to get out of the jam.

"If you look at my stats, it's probably my best spring," Miles said. "The guy who's playing good is the guy who's going to play the most."

In the sixth inning, Miles moved over to third base, and Spivey came in to play second.

The Mets' Jose Valentin, who reached base on a two-out triple, scored on Spivey's fifth error of the spring. Spivey misplayed a ground ball to his right to allow the run.

Hancock earns final bullpen spot: On Friday, La Russa and pitching coach Dave Duncan solidified their bullpen by reassigning Alan Benes and Brian Falkenborg to Minor League camp, and retaining non-roster pitcher Josh Hancock.

"All of those guys competed equally," Duncan said. "Any of them wouldn't have been a bad choice. From start to finish, Hancock was the most consistent throwing strikes."

Hancock, a right-hander, pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Friday, leaving him with two earned runs in 10 Spring Training innings. Hancock, who turns 28 on April 11, was signed as a Minor League free agent on Feb. 21.

Duncan said Benes and Falkenborg could still be called up this year.

"You never know when you might need help," Duncan said.

Rodriguez OK: Outfielder John Rodriguez, who was competing for one of the final four roster spots, had an MRI done on Saturday on the left shoulder he strained on Friday.

Rodriguez said the results showed a deep muscle bruise.

"It feels pretty good today," said Rodriguez, who also suffered from muscle spasms in the same shoulder, and had an MRI earlier in the spring.

Rodriguez strained the shoulder on Friday while chasing a first-inning double into the left-field corner at Tradition Field and had to be helped off the field.

Edmonds back in swing: Jim Edmonds, who sat out Wednesday and Thursday with a bruised right heel, played Friday and Saturday, and plans on being in the lineup on Opening Day.

"Feels great," said Edmonds, who went 0-for-3 on Saturday and 1-for-4 with a double on Friday. "[My heel] feels better than my swing today."

Quotable: "You always fear for the worst and hope for the best, and we got the best," -- La Russa, on hearing Rodriguez's shoulder MRI came back negative.

Bits and pieces: There were 15 Cardinals home games at Roger Dean Stadium in 2006, with an average attendance of 6,604. The average in 2005 was 6,811. ... Chris Carpenter finished the spring with a 0.68 ERA in 26 2/3 innings. ... Edmonds and Yadier Molina were the only two Cardinals to bat above .400 for the spring. ... Scott Spiezio led the Cards' spring effort with nine walks.

Faran Fagen is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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