4/15/2014 9:10 P.M. ET
Kozma's progress apparent but future unclear
By Jenifer Langosch / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Though manager Mike Matheny was effusive with his praise of how Pete Kozma had improved and how professionally he handled two weeks of limited playing time while keeping Mark Ellis' roster spot warm, the 26-year-old shortstop heads to Triple-A with his future within the Cardinals' organization uncertain.
The Cardinals' decision to sign Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract in November and then boost their organizational depth at short with the March addition of Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz sent a message -- whether intended or not -- to Kozma that he was not a central part of the team's long-term plans.
Kozma's struggles last season -- he hit .217 in 143 games -- after being named the team's starting shortstop prompted the Cardinals to look elsewhere. So how does Kozma fit after being optioned to Triple-A Memphis on Tuesday?
"I feel good about Pete in general," Matheny said. "You hate to send out a guy who was such an integral part of our club last year on a team that did win the pennant. But we had some great conversations even leading up to yesterday about how he continues to improve and the faith that we have in him as a player and our hopeful expectation that he just keeps improving, because he can play the shortstop position at this level. Just to keep working on the things that he can work on.
"This was a tough assignment coming in here with bringing in a Jhonny Peralta. But Pete came in and did everything right. He said the right things, worked relentlessly, and very proud of how he handled a tough situation."
Kozma did not make a start during the Cards' first two weeks of games and took only three at-bats. He singled in a ninth-inning at-bat in Monday's win over the Brewers.
"That swing he put on yesterday, I don't think you could count very many times he put a swing like that on a pitch [last year], and we were watching it consistently through batting practice, too," Matheny said, pointing to Kozma's improved mechanics. "He needs to trust himself out over the plate where he can cover all pitches. … Sometimes you need some of the struggles to help open your eyes to some of the holes you have in your game. He's making good strides."
The Cardinals will have Kozma play regularly at short in Memphis, with occasional work at third base in case the Cardinals have the need for a versatile infielder later this season.
Cards wear No. 42 on Jackie Robinson Day
MILWAUKEE -- For the sixth consecutive year, players and uniformed personnel for every Major League team playing on Tuesday swapped their chosen numbers to wear the one once donned by the man who broke baseball's color barrier. For one night, everyone was No. 42.
Jackie Robinson's legacy was celebrated across the country on Tuesday, the 67th anniversary of the date Robinson first took the field for the Brooklyn Dodgers. MLB unilaterally retired No. 42 in 1997, and with Mariano Rivera's career over, no active player regularly wears the number. Each April 15, MLB highlights Robinson's legacy. His is the only number retired by all 30 clubs.
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"I think Jackie Robinson Day is a real special day for all of baseball," said center fielder Jon Jay, who is Cuban-American. "He broke the color barrier, for Latin players, for all sorts of different players. As a Latin player I think it's something that's big where he really paved the way for us, and we owe a lot to him. If it wasn't for him, a lot of us wouldn't be playing in the Major Leagues right now."
Twenty-seven players in Cardinals history, including Bruce Sutter, Curt Flood and Harvey Haddix, wore No. 42 before it was retired by MLB. Jose Oliva, in 1995, was the club's last player to wear the number, which has also since been retired for the Hall of Famer Sutter.
The Cardinals do not have an African-American player on their Major League roster but do have a roster dotted with Latin American players who have benefited from Robinson's diversification of the sport.
Jackie Robinson Day jeweled bases and lineup cards were used in Tuesday night's game between St. Louis and Milwaukee.
"It is definitely a special day not only for the Dodgers but around Major League Baseball," said Mark Ellis, who spent the past two seasons playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers. "It's an honor to wear that number, and I think Major League Baseball did the right thing a couple years ago by retiring the number of somebody who has changed the sport forever. Even though I'm not a minority, I'm still very proud to wear that number not only because of what he did for baseball, but what he did for history."
• Encouraged by Allen Craig's swings on Monday and looking for another way to spark the right fielder's bat, manager Mike Matheny moved Craig into the second spot of the batting order on Tuesday night. Matheny did a similar lineup tweak last week to try to spark Peter Bourjos. It worked, as Bourjos answered with a multihit game and is 5-for-14 since.
"It looked like Allen," Matheny said of the single Craig lined to right-center in the eighth inning Monday. "And even the foul balls, you could just see he was trusting his hands a little bit more and not trying to force it. … Right now, it's just confidence because the swing mechanically looks right, and it's just a matter of having a little bit of success so you feel like you can get it done right as you walk into the box. I could see that presence is there a little more also."
• With a three-hit game on Monday, Matt Adams moved into the team lead with seven multihit games this season. He also leads the club with six doubles.
• Alex Reyes, rated the organization's sixth-best prospect per MLB.com's rankings, pitched three innings in his second start of the season for Class A Peoria (Ill.) on Monday. Reyes, 19, limited his opponent to one run and two hits but walked five. He also notched five strikeouts.
• Right-hander Kurt Heyer lifted Double-A Springfield (Mo.) to a 2-1 win on Monday by allowing one run over seven innings in his third start of the season. Heyer scattered seven hits and struck out three to pick up his first win. He was supported with RBIs from Jonathan Rodriguez and Mike O'Neill. Third baseman Patrick Wisdom, who had a two-hit game, scored the winning run.
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.