Descalso Earning Respect

Infielder making a name in the majors





ST. LOUIS—It didn't take long for Daniel Descalso's nickname to go viral in the major league clubhouse and speed all the way into manager Tony La Russa's vernacular. One trip around the bases probably did it.

"We call him Dirty Dan," La Russa said.

Descalso, dependable as much as dirty at second base for Triple-A Memphis, played his way onto the 40-man roster in time for a September callup and found at-bats available at third base. He hit .265/.324/.324 in 34 at-bats for the Cardinals, collecting four of his nine hits in one game. But he left an impression, one that didn't revolve solely around playing second.

"He gets in good fielding position, he gets over the top when he throws, so the ball has terrific carry. He can definitely play third base, arm-wise, and we all know that he's kind of a gritty player," La Russa said. "He gets in there and creates things for himself. And he stands up there and takes his whacks."

Descalso, 24, had hit his way into the big league conversation in the past two years, though his potential role is undefined. He could be thrown into the second-base jumble, or he could audition for a utility role. Descalso has played every position in the infield at the high Class A level or higher, though his bat meant he fit best as a second baseman. A lefthanded hitter, he batted .282/.350/.421 at Triple-A, mixing in 32 doubles to go with 47 walks against 48 strikeouts. He has a natural feel for the strike zone, and he's aware that getting on-base with persistent gap power is his route to the majors.

"I profiled a lot better as a second baseman, and I still do," Descalso said. "I've always thought I had a pretty good grip on the strike zone. I'm not a big strikeout guy. I'll get my fair share of walks. That's always been a part of my success, having that selective approach at the plate."

The Cardinals are considering offensive upgrades in the middle infield. Descalso doesn't yet fit into that equation, but showing versatility will enhance his chances at scoring a bench spot.

REDBIRD CHIRPS

• Righthander Adam Ottavino, the Cardinals' first-round pick in 2006, got himself ready to throw at the end of the season, as promised. He wanted to avoid surgery on his shoulder and insisted he could rest and be available in September. Though he didn't get an inning, he reaches the winter knowing he was capable.

• Memphis manager Chris Maloney sat in with the big league staff for 2010 player evaluations to offer insight on players he spent time with in the minors.