Kozma's playing time being reduced by hot-hitting Descalso

News-DemocratJuly 10, 2013 

— Pete Kozma is not being phased out as the St. Louis Cardinals' starting shortstop. It just appears that way.

Kozma yielded the position to Daniel Descalso for the fifth time in six games Wednesday in the Cardinals' 5-4 win over the Houston Astros. Descalso was 0-for-3, but he is 7-for-21 (.333) with four doubles and three RBIs in his last seven games, one in which he only played one inning.

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said Kozma remains a major component of the team despite a .234 average and a .281 on-base percentage. He has one home run and 27 RBIs, and his 57 strikeouts are second on the team to All-Star Allen Craig's 61.

"The shortstop position ... to me, first and foremost, is a defensive position," Matheny said. "We can't complain for one second about what we've seen from Pete Kozma. Yes, we're jumping on Danny's hot bat. But with that being said, we're also giving a young player an opportunity to get a little more rest."

Kozma has been using the down time to take extra batting practice. Matheny said Kozma's swing is coming around, but Descalso is making it difficult for Kozma to get the everyday nod.

Descalso was 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored in a 9-5 victory Tuesday night. He is batting began Wednesday batting .275 with 16 doubles, three homers and 26 RBIs. He was batting .167 on May 8.

"Pete understands, and we had a conversation (Wednesday)," Matheny said. "Everything we've said in the past still stands true. We really like what we've seen him do. We'll continue to have him out there, but today is a good day for Danny to continue after a good night last night."

Rest for Molina

Matheny and General Manager John Mozeliak have said the Cardinals will seek to keep All-Star catcher Yadier Molina fresh by giving him more days off, especially in the sizzling summer months of July and August.

Molina, who missed games Saturday and Sunday because of right-knee inflammation, returned Tuesday and was 0-for-2 with a walk and a hit by pitch. But he was back on the bench Wednesday, although he struck out as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.

"It's what we're doing moving forward," Matheny said. "We're taking opportunities, when we have them, to give him a little rest. It's truly been part of the plan from the beginning."

All-Star right fielder Carlos Beltran also was idled Wednesday, as Craig played right and Matt Adams took over at first base. Matheny said Beltran wanted to play, but the Cardinals also are keeping a close eye on him and looking for every chance to play Adams, who collected two hits.

The quiet man

Rookie reliever Kevin Siegrist answers most questions in one or two sentences, and the 41st-round draft choice in 2007 wasn't getting overly excited about his accomplishment Tuesday.

Siegrist, a left-hander, set a franchise with his 12th consecutive scoreless appearance to start a career. He broke the former mark of 11 set in 2005 and 2006 by Tyler Johnson.

"I was thinking about it yesterday and this morning," Siegrist said. "It's kind of unreal to be a part of history now, with an organization like this. It's awesome. It's an honor."

Matheny said Siegrist has "done a terrific job."

"He's been very consistent, so we'll continue to watch and see what he does. He gives us a little more depth," Matheny said.

Pitching plans

Matheny announced his rotation for after the All-Star break.

Jake Westbrook will start July 19 against visiting San Diego, followed by Lance Lynn on July 20 and Adam Wainwright on July 21.

The Cardinals are idle on July 22, and Shelby Miller will pitch July 23 against Philadelphia, also at Busch Stadium. Miller's start will come 13 days after his outing Wednesday against Houston.

St. Louis won't need a fifth starter until July 27 in Atlanta.

Contact reporter David Wilhelm at dwilhelm@bnd.com or 239-2665. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidMWilhelm.

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