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Cardinals' recall of Kozma pays off in finale

Cardinals' recall of Kozma pays off in finale

ST. LOUIS -- After playing without a second backup infielder for six games last week, the Cardinals decided after Saturday's doubleheader that they did not want to be so exposed for two more days.

The plan imparted to infielder Greg Garcia when he was optioned on Monday (a move made so the Cardinals could fortify their bullpen with Tyler Lyons) was that he would return to Springfield, await the end of the Double-A season and then rejoin the Cardinals on Tuesday, once he was eligible.

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Instead, however, Garcia is now on his way to Triple-A, where he will become the starting shortstop for Memphis' playoff run. He takes the spot of Pete Kozma, who was recalled by the Cardinals on Sunday to give the big league team an extra infielder.

"The majority of the reason we're bringing [Kozma] back here is he's a shortstop that's played in the World Series," manager Mike Matheny said. "We love what he does defensively. If we needed some help or [starting shortstop] Jhonny [Peralta] needed some time, it gives us a little more depth.

"But the way we've got it right now, we've got one infielder, literally, on our bench. That puts us in a pretty tight spot of how we can use Danny [Descalso]. Then we're left short with a guy who can't really play in the middle if we use him in a big spot to pinch-hit, which he's deserved."

Having Kozma available off the bench on Sunday helped free Descalso to start in place of Matt Adams at first base. Descalso made spot starts at short and second in Saturday's doubleheader and hit safely in both games.

It also paid off when Kolten Wong had to leave with a head injury in the eighth. Kozma jumped in to play second and led off the bottom of the inning with a double. The hit kickstarted the Cardinals' three-run inning, which featured Kozma scoring the game-winning run.

"Not a surprise to us," Matheny said after the 9-6 victory. "How many big hits have we seen this guy have? It's not quite September yet, but he seems to be able to get them done as far as big hits go when we get down in the stretch."

Kozma opened the season with the Cardinals and accrued three at-bats before returning to Memphis. He hit .248 with eight homers and 54 RBIs in 117 Triple-A games.

"I think being in Memphis and playing every day, I've been able to apply what I learned last year," Kozma said. "That helped out a bunch being there playing."

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.

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