ST. LOUIS (AP) -David Eckstein returned to the St. Louis Cardinals' leadoff spot on Tuesday after spending three weeks overcoming an early season slump from the bottom of the order.
Eckstein, the World Series MVP last fall, was batting .226 when manager Tony La Russa dropped him to eighth at the start of the month. He bottomed out at .207 on May 14 before surging in recent games. Eckstein had four multihit games in his past six and had his average at .256.
``His average has definitely climbed and he feels good about his swing,'' La Russa said before the Cardinals played the Pirates. ``I'm happy to get him back there.''
La Russa committed to batting Eckstein leadoff the next three games, but not beyond that given the team's struggles. The Cardinals entered Tuesday tied for last place in the NL Central at 16-25, the worst start since La Russa arrived in St. Louis in 1996.
``We're trying to survive series to series, for any of us,'' La Russa said. ``We'll see how we do. It's how we do, not just how he does.''
Eckstein, who batted .292 last year and .294 in 2005, his first season in St. Louis, hasn't complained since the demotion and has maintained that his philosophy never changed. But he's been a leadoff hitter his entire career and was happy to be back in his regular spot.
``Definitely, definitely, definitely,'' Eckstein said. ``I want to get back to where I was, that's the biggest thing.
``This game is so much in the head, it's so mental, that I can't step into the batter's box and have a different mindset,'' Eckstein said. ``The whole game is up in the head.''
Eckstein hesitated to say moving down in the order was good for him. The Cardinals were 10-14 when La Russa began using other players at the top of the order, and 6-11 without Eckstein leading off.
``I've had success there, so it's nice,'' he said. ``I just want to be able to help the club win, wherever it is. That's my main focus.''
La Russa has considered also moving Chris Duncan from second to cleanup in the order to help the team's sagging offense. Duncan remained in the second spot on Tuesday because the Pirates started left-hander Zach Duke.
``I'll hit wherever they want me to,'' Duncan said. ``Whatever's going to work.''
The biggest lineup change was Jim Edmonds, struggling at the plate and in the outfield, batting seventh for the first time this season. Edmonds entered the game batting .225 with one home run and 10 RBIs and moved behind catcher Yadier Molina, who entered with a 13-game hitting streak.

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