GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Injuries to Casey Blake and Jamey Carroll have improved the odds of Aaron Miles' long-shot bid to make the Dodgers' roster.
Miles is in competition with veteran Juan Castro, Eugenio Velez and rookies Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Hector Gimenez for the sixth infielder spot. Miles didn't hurt his chances Saturday, not only with a pair of hits to raise his average to .343, but with four more assists from third base, a position he has rarely played in the Major Leagues.
"I feel like I'm serviceable over there," said Miles, who has spent most of his seven Major League seasons as a middle infielder. "I've been working out there a lot, even before Casey got hurt. I know I can play there. I know I'm a big leaguer and I belong in the big leagues."
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Manager Don Mattingly said he's still likely to slide Juan Uribe to third base if Blake can't start the season on time and have Carroll play second. But it now looks like another veteran is needed, especially since Mattingly said he doesn't want De Jesus in a bench role in the Major Leagues when he can be playing regularly in the Minor Leagues.
The 34-year-old Miles said he made a major offseason adjustment that has contributed to his strong spring.
"I had laser eye surgery during the offseason and I'm seeing better than ever," said Miles. "With the experience I have and now that I'm seeing better, I feel born again in a weird way -- like I got a gift.
"I'm excited. I thought about getting the surgery for years, but figured if it wasn't broken, don't fix it. Finally I got to the point where if it can make me see better, I should do it. I finally pulled the trigger."
After a nightmarish 2009 with the Cubs, when he hit .185 in 74 games, Miles bounced back with a .281 average in 79 games with the Cardinals last season, but he still was looking for an edge as he attempts to make the Dodgers.
"I'm the type of player -- I feel like my whole career I've had to make a team," said Miles, who won the World Series with St. Louis in 2006. "This is nothing new to me. You've got to prove it every day. I pride myself in doing whatever it takes. I've shown through my career I can come off the bench."
Miles signed a contract for $500,000 and has an escape if he's not on the Major League roster by June 1, so he could be sent to the Minor Leagues initially.
It was looking like Miles had carved out a niche as a key part of the Cardinals from 2006-08, averaging 134 games a season and a .290 average. But St. Louis non-tendered him after the '08 season to keep his salary down. He cashed in with the Cubs, signing a two-year, $4.9 million deal. But '09 was a disaster.
"A lot of it had to do with the injuries," Miles explained. "I hurt my shoulder [labrum] in 2009 diving for a ball, tried to play through it and hurt my elbow. Last year was the second [and final] year on my contract, and the Cubs traded me to Oakland [for Jeff Gray and two Minor Leaguers] in the winter, but before Spring Training started I was traded again to Cincinnati (for Adam Rosales and Willy Taveras). It was all to get rid of salary. Then [Cincinnati] let me go the day before camp broke."
Miles said there was more to his 2009 problems than the arm injuries.
"I also dealt with family problems," he said. "I got divorced and didn't see my kids, and it was real tough mentally, as much as the injuries were tough on me physically."
After being released by the Reds, Miles went home until the Cardinals needed him back. He signed on April 27, went to extended Spring Training and played a week at Double-A Springfield before getting called up.
"So last year, getting back with the Cardinals, I got my confidence back and got healthy," Miles said. "In this sport, confidence isn't given to you, you have to earn it day in and day out. I tried to trick myself into thinking I was OK. We all have that kick-butt mentality.
"Last year I finished well and got back to the guy I know I can be, even though the playing time wasn't there in St. Louis as much as I'd like. They were in a pennant run and I came off the bench, pinch-hitting, but it was a good year confidence wise from 2009. I think this is a good spot for me. I love being in the NL West because I'm closer to my kids in the Bay Area. I've got plenty of baseball left in me."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.