Shortstop News Does Not Require Panic

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that shortstop Rafael Furcal would require Tommy John surgery, ending his season before it starts.

Rafael_Furcal

During the announcement, General Manager John Mozeliak seemed to throw his support behind young Pete Kozma as the immediate solution.  Fans took to Twitter to beg the team to make a trade and acquire someone immediately to fill the void.

Calm down, Cards fans.

Keep in mind that in the grand scheme of things, the Cardinals were not relying on Furcal as much as many fans felt they were.  They signed Ronny Cedeno to be the back up at that position due to the fear that he would not be able to patrol the field.  As Matt Whitener pointed out on last night’s UCB Radio, Cedeno was most likely signed as a back up no matter what.  Furcal’s news does not thrust him into the starting role, it simply means that he will be the backup to someone else.

That someone else, at least for now, is Pete Kozma.  Honestly, doesn’t he deserve the chance?

We all know the Kozma story: first round pick that couldn’t figure out how to hit in the minors, given multiple chances at different levels but never seemed to “click”, then suddenly figured something out on the biggest stage down the stretch in St. Louis last season.

Small sample size aside, those 72 at bats at the major league level last year should, at the very least, earn Kozma the opportunity to prove that it was a fluke.  His defense was suspect last year, but barely below league average, and his offense was suddenly solid with a ..333/.383/.569 slash line.  His strikeouts were high while his walks were low but that is a trend we see with many young players.  Patience comes with experience and experience comes with opportunity.

So far this spring, again small sample size, Kozma has proven that he can hit well, play decent defense, and he is showing an increased level of patience at the plate.  He looks like the first round pick that the Cardinals had so much faith invested in 2007.

Ultimately, we’re talking about the number eight hitter in the Cardinals lineup.  A position that will not be relied on for strong offensive numbers and be looked at to simply handle the position on the field.  The production in this lineup will come from left field, right field, catcher, first base, and third base.

Kozma is showing patience at the plate and the Cardinals are showing that patience with his development might just pay off.  Gaining experience requires an opportunity to present itself.

The opportunity is here.

Bill Ivie is the editor here at i70baseball.
You can follow him on Twitter by clicking here.

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