HOUSTON -- The Cardinals weren't going to find an equal replacement for Rafael Furcal, who went down with a season-ending arm injury on Aug. 30. But manager Mike Matheny's hope was that he could do a good enough job mixing and matching his other three shortstop options to at least minimize the loss.
Daniel Descalso was already on the Major League club. Pete Kozma arrived the day after Furcal went down. Ryan Jackson came up from Triple-A shortly after. But this has become no carousel of three. Most of the starts have gone and will continue to go to Kozma, the former first-round Draft pick seizing the opportunity after being given the chance.
"I kind of figured I would be splitting time with somebody who had been up here all year," Kozma said. "I feel pretty good getting in there. I've worked out the jitters."
Kozma made his 12th start in the team's last 14 games on Monday. The stranglehold on the spot initially came as a result of what Kozma was doing on the defensive end. He was touted as an above-average defender while climbing through the Minors, and the Cardinals wanted defensive stability at the position.
Kozma's production on offense, though, has been a bonus.
Kozma crushed a homer in the second inning Monday, giving him two home runs in as many days. A .232 hitter in Triple-A this season, Kozma has hit safely in eight of his 14 starts. He has three triples and was credited with stealing home on a botched suicide squeeze attempt over the weekend.
"He's taken good at-bats for us," Matheny said. "He's taken tough at-bats and they're pitching him tough. That eight-hole is not an easy place to be. He's done a nice job with the opportunity that he's had.
"We have three guys to kind of play with. We're just trying to figure out who was going to take advantage of it. That's been Pete."