ST. LOUIS (BaseballStL) -- I'm not sure about this. It's just a guess. So I reserve the right to be wrong. But I don't think GM John Mozeliak went into the 2012 season envisioning chasing down a playoff spot in the final weeks with Pete Kozma as his everyday shortstop.
That probably isn't what he was hoping for...let alone planning on.
Yet, here we are with about two weeks to go before the regular season is over and the Redbirds are going with a guy who's been on the wrong end of approximately 2,465,793 jokes since being taken in the first round back in 2007.
Injuries can do that to a team.
But, surprisingly, Kozma is making the most of an incredible opportunity that nobody thought he'd ever receive and is giving the Cards at least a fighting chance at the ultra important position.
He's hitting .310 (9-29) with four extra base hits since being recalled from AAA-Memphis. He's been steady defensively as well. To be honest, I'm quite shocked he's been able to do this. It's a testament to how hard Kozma has worked to turn himself into a big leaguer after getting off to such a, well, let's just say slow start to his professional career.
Pete Kozma was drafted 18th overall back in '07 out of Owasso High School in Oklahoma to much criticism. The Cards scouting report suggested he wasn't extraordinary in any one department but he did everything well. Critics, including yours truly, believe you take potential stars in the first round...not low upside prospects such as Kozma. Especially when there was a guy named Rick Porcello still on the board who everyone knew was a top talent. The only issue with him was financial demands.
Kozma definitely did nothing to dissuade those critics with his play on the field either after he signed. He hit just .233 in 2007 before reaching .258 across A-Quad Cities and A-Palm Beach the next year. 2009 was not a good year either as he hit just .231 for the season...including a .216 average in his first turn at AA-Springfield. Kozma would return to Springfield in 2010, managing a mere .243 average for the season. The Cards still promoted him to AAA-Memphis last year where he struggled to a horribly bad .214 season. This season? Back to Memphis...and a .232 average once again.
Sound like someone big league GM's are clamoring for to be their everyday shortstop? I don't think so.
But when Cards everyday guy Rafael Furcal hurt his elbow, all of a sudden the Redbirds had very few options. Tyler Greene was supposed to be that top backup...but he had his own issues and was jettisoned to Houston.
That left Ryan Jackson...who many touted as an elite defender with average at best offensive skills. Well, lately, Jackson's been seen on the bench while Kozma has gotten all the starts.
And, to everyone's surprise, is performing. Kozma's not flashy on the defensive side of things. He won't be pulling any Ozzie Smith/Brendan Ryan type plays where you put a star in your scorebook. But he makes the plays a major league shortstop has to make. And, frankly, that's all you can ask for right now.
There's two weeks left in the season. The Cards are desperate for any and every win they can snag at this point. It'll be a total team effort...so to suggest everything is riding on the shortstop is ridiculous. However, the shortstop does have a role. And it's a sizeable one.
Right now, Pete Kozma is doing what needs to be done.