Aaron Miles found himself backed into a corner last off-season.
The teams interested in him -- and there were only three -- were offering him minor league contracts. At 33, he was in danger of becoming a major league washout.
It prompted him to do something he had long considered, but feared: undergo laser eye surgery.
Miles credits the operation for his resurgence.
The same player who hit .185 in 2009 is batting .311 for the Dodgers. And he already has appeared in 80 games, something he didn't do in either of the previous two seasons. His 49 starts -- 38 at second base and 11 at third -- are his most since 2008.
"I thought about getting it before, but I thought the risk wasn't worth it because I was doing fine," he said. "Obviously, now I wish I could have played my whole career with the eyes I have now."
Miles, who is in his ninth major league season, said his vision problems dated to his minor league days.
He wore contact lenses but said he never saw 20/20 out of his left eye because of astigmatism. He saw close to 20/20 out of his right eye, but his sight was prone to suddenly worsening if he blinked or if the eye dried.
"You have to have a shorter swing if you have to wait longer to recognize the pitch," Miles said. "I felt like my swing was too short."
Manager Don Mattingly said that when the Dodgers opened camp, he wasn't expecting much from Miles, considering his recent track record and contractual status.
"When they signed me, they probably penciled my name in to Albuquerque," Miles said, referring to the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate.
Based on how much better he saw the ball, Miles said he knew he was bound for Los Angeles as soon as workouts began. His vision had improved to 20/15.
"That's the name of the game, recognizing the pitch," he said. "The sooner you recognize it, the more things you can do."
Miles said he doesn't feel his artificial improvements constitute cheating.
"There are people out there who see 20/10 naturally," he said. "I know Albert Pujols has amazing vision. I'd like to think I'm close to seeing how Albert sees. Ted Williams had like 20/10 vision, you know?
"I don't think it's an unfair advantage. It's a disadvantage for guys that wear contacts and deal with the struggles of seeing every day in different climates, different stadiums, different lighting."
The performance of the Dodgers' offense got hitting coach Jeff Pentland fired this week.
How does the interim replacement, Dave Hansen, feel about putting his fate in the hands of that same weak-hitting lineup?
"I don't think about that," Hansen said. "I enjoy these guys and they do what they do. We're going to try to get better. ... I don't know how to answer the fate thing."
A former Dodger who was coached by Pentland when he played for the Chicago Cubs in 1997, Hansen assisted Pentland as a hitting instructor this year.
Hansen said he felt his mentor wasn't responsible for the Dodgers' substandard production.
"I mean, somebody had to take a bullet," Hansen said. "I don't know how else to put it. That wasn't him. He doesn't go out and hit and all that stuff."
But Hansen said he is comfortable with the players he is inheriting.
"I think these are hardworking guys," he said. "I don't think, I know, because I'm down there with them all the time."
And he said the Dodgers are capable of more.
"I was a player," Hansen said. "I don't give up on any of these guys. I'll never give up on them."
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Getting it right on the road
Dodgers utility infielder Aaron Miles, a switch-hitter who is batting nearly .400 against left-handed pitchers this season, has done his best work away from Dodger Stadium.
*--* AB R H RBI AVG. 117 7 32 7 274 *--*
*--* AB R H RBI AVG. 198 20 57 19 288 *--*
*--* AB R H RBI AVG. 134 18 46 16 343 *--*
*--* AB R H RBI AVG. 53 5 21 4 396 *--*