There were a few times last season that Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak called it a night, expecting to remove Pete Kozma from the roster in the morning.

Maybe a trade faltered or a waiver claim didn’t happen, but for whatever reason Mozeliak never needed Kozma’s spot on the 40-man roster so the former first-round pick remained, idling in Class AAA.

Then the Cardinals, who suddenly needed a shortstop for a late run, received a September jolt from Kozma. And the difference was a night’s sleep.

“The club was at a crossroads,” Mozeliak said Sunday as the Cardinals continued spring training at the Roger Dean Stadium complex. “He gets an opportunity to play. There were many reasons why we ended up having success (last season and) he was certainly part of it. He deserves credit for that. … The biggest difference between spring training 2012 and spring training 2013 is that he believes he can play now. His level of confidence is soaring relative to where it was a year ago.”

Kozma, 24, hit .340 in his first 16 regular-season starts at shortstop and he started the Cardinals’ final 29 games, including all 13 in the playoffs.

Low on depth chart

His 14 RBIs in September were the most in a month by a Cards rookie shortstop in at least five decades. And yet with that as his tailwind, Kozma arrives at spring training no higher than third on the depth chart at shortstop. His confidence may have taken flight, but his opportunity is still awaiting clearance.
“I feel like I’ll get a little bit of a chance this spring, a little bit more of a look,” Kozma said. “Hopefully, I’ll get more at-bats than I have in the past. We’ll have to see how I perform. What hasn’t changed is this — I come in ready to play at any time.”