Pete Kozma is the new Shane Spencer

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OK, so the comparison isn’t quite perfect, but I needed a catchy headline to get you to read about this craziness.

When the Cardinals lost starting shortstop Rafael Furcal for the season they called up Pete Kozma from Triple-A, where he’d hit just .232 with a .292 on-base percentage and .355 slugging percentage in 131 games. And that offensive ineptitude was nothing new for Kozma, whose career numbers in the minors include a .236 batting average and .652 OPS.

Kozma was the 18th overall pick in the 2007 draft coming out of high school, but at no point in his six-season career as a minor leaguer has he ever hit. His career-high OPS is .702 and his batting averages by season are .233, .258, 231, .243, .214, and .232. Based on his lengthy track record Kozma projected to be one of the majors’ worst hitters.

But the Cardinals called him up, mostly because they lacked other options, and then a funny thing happened: Kozma started hitting. So much, in fact, that manager Mike Matheny couldn’t possibly take him out of the lineup. So now through 23 games as a major leaguer Kozma has hit .338 with a .600 slugging percentage and .975 OPS. And the Cardinals, despite injuries to multiple key players, have hung tough in September and are headed to the playoffs, where Kozma can see if his deal with the devil extends past Game 162.

Tigers sign Josh Thole to minors deal

Josh Thole
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The Tigers signed catcher Josh Thole to a minor league deal, per an announcement from the Double-A Erie SeaWolves on Friday. Thole is expected to report to Double-A Erie, where he’ll split time with starting catcher Jake Rogers.

Thole, 31, has not appeared in a major or minor league game since 2016. He signed a minors deal with the Diamondbacks back in 2017, but was sidelined through most of the season after undergoing hamstring surgery in April. He was released by the team during spring training and failed to catch on with another major league club through the first two months of the 2018 season.

While the veteran backstop hasn’t tested his skills in pro ball for several years now, he held his own during a short-lived run with the independent New Britain Bees of the Atlantic League. Over 17 games in 2018, Thole batted .317/.425/.367 with three extra-base hits and a .791 OPS in 75 plate appearances. He’s expected to serve as catching depth within the Tigers’ organization, but may yet work his way back to the majors if he can get his average back over the Mendoza Line again — a feat he hasn’t managed since 2015.