Pete Kozma is the Cardinals’ starting shortstop

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There’s been no official announcement in the wake of Rafael Furcal’s season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery, but manager Mike Matheny made it clear that Pete Kozma will be the Cardinals’ starting shortstop.

That’s no surprise, as Kozma played shockingly well down the stretch last season after stepping into the lineup for the injured Furcal and his only real competition for the job this spring is Ronny Cedeno.

However, based on his minor-league track record Kozma is going to be overmatched as a regular. Kozma has hit just .236 with a .308 on-base percentage and .344 slugging percentage in 671 games as a minor leaguer through age 24, including just .232 with a .292 OBP and .355 SLG in 131 games at Triple-A last season.

Aside from his 26-game stint with the Cardinals last season there’s nothing in Kozma’s track record to suggest he can handle major-league pitching and in fact based on his production at Triple-A he projects as one of the majors’ worst hitters. Assuming he turns back into a pumpkin it’ll be interesting to see how long of a leash Kozma’s late-season magic buys him.

Clayton Kershaw might return to the Dodgers’ rotation next week

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Dodgers southpaw Clayton Kershaw is nearing his return to the mound, according to club manager Dave Roberts. Both Kershaw (left biceps tendinitis) and fellow lefty Rich Hill (left middle finger blister) are scheduled to toss simulated games on Saturday; depending on the outcome, Roberts says Kershaw could forgo a minor league assignment and slot back into the rotation by Thursday.

Kershaw, 30, was diagnosed with biceps tendinitis as the team closed out their Mexico Series at the start of the month. He has not made a start in several weeks, but was finally able to resume throwing on Sunday and managed to get through two successful bullpen sessions. Though Dodgers’ ace hasn’t been completely injury-free over his 11-year career in the majors, this is the first significant issue he’s had with his pitching arm so far. The team is expected to take every precaution with the lefty, and will likely limit him to just four innings during Saturday’s simulated game.

Prior to his injury, Kershaw was working on another dominant run with the club, sporting a 2.86 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 9.8 SO/9 through his first 44 innings of the season. While Kershaw, Hill and left-handed starter Hyun-Jin Ryu served their respective terms on the disabled list this month, the Dodgers utilized a combination of relievers Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart, both of whom impressed during their limited time in the rotation.