JUPITER, Fla. -- Pete Kozma arrived at Spring Training seemingly squeezed from the Major League depth chart, with Rafael Furcal and Ronny Cedeno appearing to be in his way.
Now, the starting shortstop job is his to lose.
With Furcal set to have season-ending elbow surgery next week, the Cardinals will turn first to Kozma -- not Cedeno -- to provide some stability at the position. The opportunity is a byproduct of the spark Kozma provided last year, hitting .333 in 26 games when summoned as a late-season fill-in for Furcal.
Kozma played steady defense, too, and that, more than the offensive production, is what the Cardinals are seeking in a replacement.
"When you look at our team, [and] the makeup of our club from an offensive standpoint, we have production at every position," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It should alleviate the stress of the shortstop. We view Kozma as a very good defensive shortstop."
Kozma went deep for the second time this spring on Thursday and is now 12-for-28 in Grapefruit League play. Cedeno, in contrast, has three hits in 18 spring at-bats.
"As long as I get a chance, that's all I can ask for. I'm going to run with it," Kozma said. "I have to do what I did last year. I have to carry it over into the season."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.