Feldman: Cardinals in a world of hurt right now at shortstop

Feldman: Cardinals in a world of hurt right now at shortstop

Credit: Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 22: Pete Kozma #38 of the St. Louis Cardinals turns a double play as Brandon Crawford #35 of the San Francisco Giants is out at second in the seventh inning in Game Seven of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park on October 22, 2012 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)


by Brian Feldman, News 4 Sports


Posted on March 4, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Updated Sunday, Oct 27 at 11:57 PM

(BaseballStL) -- So let me get this straight.  The current shortstops in camp for the Cards are as follows:

--A 35-year old who can’t throw because his elbow is shot

--An eight year veteran with a career .290 on-base percentage

--A former first round pick whose batting averages in the minor leagues consisted of numbers such as .233, .258, .231, .243, .214 and .232.

 Well.  That’s exciting.

With the recent, unfortunate, news that veteran Rafael Furcal has taken a turn for the worse in his rehab it brings to light just how depleted this position has become.  Not just any position either.  One of the most important - if not THE most important - positions on the field.

At the end of last season, Furcal had the option of getting surgery to repair the ligament that snapped at the end of August and sidelined him for the remainder of the season.  He refused.  He chose rest and rehab instead.

Obviously, that didn’t work.

Now with the 35-year old out of action until who-knows-when (would it really surprise anyone if he never saw the field again in a Cardinals uniform?) the Redbirds are left with, well, not much.

Ronny Cedeno was signed right before spring training to a one year contract and has looked very underwhelming in Grapefruit League games (just 2-15).  Even manager Mike Matheny, when spinning positive vibes regarding the position, couldn’t say much about Cedeno’s offense other than he was working hard with hitting coach John Mabry. 

Then there’s the Pete Kozma phenomenon.  After six years of failing to reach the expectations bestowed upon him as a first round pick, he was forced into duty last year following the initial injury to Furcal because original backup Tyler Greene was jettisoned to Houston. 

Then, the unthinkable happened.  Kozma went on to hit .333 with a .952 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) the rest of the regular season, then coming through with several key hits in the postseason. 

But no one is foolish enough to think two months of greatness overshadows six years of dreadfulness. 

Should the Cardinals make a run at Troy Tulowitzki? Share your thoughts.

So what to do?  Well, the obvious answer is to roll with Kozma because, first of all, he’s earned the right to at least try and build upon what he did last fall.  Second of all, at 24-years old, he still does have room to grow as a player unlike the 30-year old Cedeno.

It’s not like at this point in the year there’s any starting caliber shortstops just waiting to be signed.  And in March, every team - okay, maybe not the Astros - thinks it has a chance to win and won’t be selling off proven pieces to build for the future.  That comes in July.

So for the next, oh, four months the Cardinals are left to ride with what they’ve got.  A veteran (Cedeno) who hasn’t really ever played all that well, an aging veteran (Furcal) who can’t get on the field and a kid (Kozma) trying to turn around a career that nearly came to a screeching halt several times last season.

GM John Mozeliak is no dummy.  He knows shortstop is a position that requires some attention.  But he doesn’t want a band aid.  He wants a permanent long term fix to the point where he doesn’t have to think about it again for a while. 

That will come in time.  July at the earliest.  Winter at the latest. 

For now, we wait.