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At No. 8 spot in order, Kozma showing potential

At No. 8 spot in order, Kozma showing potential

At No. 8 spot in order, Kozma showing potential

CINCINNATI -- Pete Kozma teased the Cardinals with his offensive exhibition last season.

That's OK with manager Mike Matheny, who is well aware of the potential the shortstop possesses with his bat.

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Kozma batted .333 with a .952 OPS in 26 games for the Cardinals late last season. He posted a .955 OPS with five RBIs in the National League Division Series and delivered the game-winning hit in a decisive Game 5.

This year, Kozma totes a .236 average with a .579 OPS in 101 contests. Matheny isn't overly concerned.

"Overall, his job first and foremost is he needs to catch the ball, play the defense that he has been all season and contribute how he can offensively," Matheny said.

In his first full season, Kozma leads the league with 68 hits from the No. 8 hole in the batting order and ranks second with 26 RBIs from that spot.

"He does a nice job competing and going through every at-bat, getting big hits for us," Matheny said. "I think it's a big deal in that eighth spot, getting the RBI when you have the opportunity. I think people recognize that."

Eventually, Matheny figures the Cardinals will benefit from offensive production from the 25-year-old more reminiscent of last season's display.

"I don't think we've seen what he can potentially be," Matheny said. "We saw last year a guy who's an offensive force on our club and I think he definitely has that potential."

Zack Meisel is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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