Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Cardinals Recall Kozma, Fornataro as Starter Decision Still Looms

After announcing plans to place starting pitchers Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha on the disabled list with shoulder injuries following Sunday’s game, the St. Louis Cardinals filled their roster spots on Monday morning by recalling infielder Pete Kozma and righthanded relief pitcher Eric Fornataro from Triple-A Memphis.

The decision to call up Kozma, a righthanded hitter, rather than lefty hitter Greg Garcia was a bit surprising considering that the Cards recently placed lefthanded-hitting second baseman Kolten Wong on the disabled list. Garcia has outperformed Kozma at Memphis this year, too, posting a .251/.350/.402 slash line with seven homers and 23 RBI, compared to Kozma’s .234/.341/.372 with four home runs and 24 RBI. Garcia’s been on fire over his past ten games, hitting .325 while taking five walks. For some reason, though, the Cardinals must have decided that Kozma’s superior big-league experience (189 career games compared to Garcia’s seven) and ability to play above-average defense at shortstop made him a more attractive option. This move shows that if the Cardinals need a left-handed hitter to start at second or take a pinch-hit at-bat, they’re content with relying on Daniel Descalso rather than bringing back Garcia to provide him with extra support.

Fornataro, who made his major-league debut earlier this year and started with three straight perfect appearances before allowing four earned runs in his last 4.2 innings, is likely to provide temporary bullpen depth until the Cardinals call up a starter to replace Jaime Garcia for Wednesday’s game. However, it’s possible that the Cards could elect simply to keep Fornataro around and have either Nick Greenwood or Seth Maness, both of whom have been part of the big-league bullpen, start on Wednesday. Greenwood would seem to be the more likely option considering that he was stretched out as a spot starter in the minors and went 3.1 innings last Monday in relief of Carlos Martinez.

Still, though, it’s most likely that a different starter is brought up. There’s been speculation that 2013 first-rounder Marco Gonzales, who has dominated at Double-A Springfield while putting up a 1.43 in his first six starts there, could be the guy. The safer option, however, would be lefty Tyler Lyons, who’s still regaining his form after an early-season injury but has already started four big-league games this year. At least with Lyons, you know that if he isn’t completely awful, he tends to pitch really, really well. In addition, there’s roster issues to think about, as Lyons is already on the 40-man, but Gonzales would have to be added and then would likely be sent back to the minors as soon as righthander Joe Kelly is ready to come off the disabled list.

Tags: Eric Fornataro Pete Kozma

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