CINCINNATI • Near the end of last season, infielder Rafael Furcal’s elbow unraveled and the Cardinals suddenly found themselves scrambling to find a reliable option at shortstop. Twelve months later, the reason is different, but the situation is similar.
The position is there for someone to seize.
“I don’t think it’s much different at all,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said when asked Tuesday afternoon. “Fortunately, Pete Kozma jumped on it a year ago and made it very easy for us to keep firing him in there. I still say that it would have been hard to see us getting to October if he hadn’t had the September that he had. We’ll just kind of take it day to day (this month) and try to figure out what makes us the best club.”
The Cardinals have been swapping between Kozma and Daniel Descalso at shortstop for most of the past month, and neither has been able to excel offensively. Kozma brings a zero-for-33 stretch and a .212 average into his next at-bat. Descalso’s average is .240, but he’s hit .179 with a .220 on-base percentage since the All-Star break.
A third option arrived Tuesday as Class AAA infielder Ryan Jackson was one of six promotions to the majors.
The Cardinals made the remainder of their September call-ups Tuesday as pitchers Michael Wacha, Tyler Lyons and Carlos Martinez rejoined the team from Class AA Springfield. Catcher Audry Perez, first baseman Brock Peterson and Jackson came from the Class AAA Redbirds, whose season ended Monday.
Jackson, 25, can “definitely be in the mix,” Matheny said.
Jackson took a fastball off his left knee Sunday, but he was not limited during pregame workouts Tuesday. After a strong start to the year that included a .345 average in May, Jackson settled to a .278 average with 49 runs and a .352 on-base percentage at Memphis. He hit .221 in the second half of the season. He is not considered the defensive whiz that Kozma is, but he does offer an intriguing split: Jackson hit .331 with a .397 on-base percentage this year in 166 at-bats against lefthanded pitchers.
“We’re a team that has been trying to figure out some lefthanded pitchers in this league, too,” Matheny said. “So he’s going to get some opportunity, and we’ll see how he handles it.”
Kozma remains the team’s top defensive option at the position; he is above average at his position with a plus-12 rating on groundballs, according to Bill James Online. He has attempted to rework his stance at the plate and has taken time away from the starts to adjust his approach on the job, like Jon Jay and David Freese did earlier this season.
Kozma has opened his stance, and Matheny said the team has since seen “incremental improvements.” It has not translated to games.
The manager said it’s important to remind Kozma that it was a year ago that he came in, took over the job, and hit .333 during the playoff chase.
“I’m hesitant to go in the direction that we have this tryout camp going on in September,” Matheny said. “We’ll play guys as the opportunities present themselves, and we feel that’s the right fit. When the time comes, we’ll have a good feel for what’s working and what’s not.”