PITTSBURGH -- It's too soon to call Daniel Descalso a utility player, but his versatility has helped earn him his first Major League start.
Descalso, who played second base at Triple-A Memphis this year, got the call at third against Pirates right-hander Charlie Morton on Wednesday. The lefty-swinging infielder was chosen over Aaron Miles. Descalso was drafted as a third baseman out of Cal-Davis in 2007, but has played second for the bulk of his professional career.
"I'm just happy to be here," Descalso said. "I've been working over at third base for the last few days and previous weeks before that, so I'm feeling pretty comfortable over there. I'm trying to draw on my past experience over there, go out there and do what I do. I was taking some ground balls over there, just in case. It's not like I'm totally new over there."
Descalso officially made his Major League debut on Saturday, when he was introduced as a pinch-hitter, then replaced for another pinch-hitter before he got to bat.
Starting at an unfamiliar position is not the ideal way to get his first live game action, but manager Tony La Russa is confident in Descalso's chances at third.
"We've worked him out there," La Russa said. "He catches the ball. He's got plenty of arm to play it. We think he's a better fit than Miles there. It gives him a chance to play. He has played third before. You don't want to put a utility-man label on somebody yet. But if he can play different positions and it helps him get in a Major League lineup, it's good."
La Russa asks extra work of youngsters
PITTSBURGH -- Long before players typically take the field, a group of Cardinals was working out at PNC Park on Wednesday afternoon. Several youngsters -- and some veterans as well -- were outside before 2:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and it's not unusual these days.
The benefit of having extra players on the Major League roster in September is obvious -- more tactical options, and experience for young players. The downside is keeping all those players sharp, not to mention fitting them into batting practice schedules and even in the clubhouse.
So the Cards take extra work, more than two hours before their regular batting practice.
"It just makes regular batting practice not as long and crowded," manager Tony La Russa said. "They get a lot of extra swings."
Jason LaRue returned home on Wednesday after spending a couple of afternoons in the Cardinals' clubhouse and consulting with concussion specialists at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. ... A nasty storm rolled through Pittsburgh a couple of hours before game time on Wednesday, but the rain was long gone by first pitch. ... Fans attending Thursday's game in Pittsburgh should be aware that it may be more complicated than usual getting out. The University of Pittsburgh has a football game against the University of Miami set for Thursday evening at Heinz Field, just down the street from PNC Park. ... Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols entered Wednesday's game ranking first and third, respectively, in the National League in two-out RBIs.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.