JUPITER, Fla. -- Pete Kozma arrived at Spring Training seemingly squeezed from the Major League depth chart, with Rafael Furcal and Ronny Cedeno appearing to be in his way.
Now, the starting shortstop job is his to lose.
With Furcal set to have season-ending elbow surgery next week, the Cardinals will turn first to Kozma -- not Cedeno -- to provide some stability at the position. The opportunity is a byproduct of the spark Kozma provided last year, hitting .333 in 26 games when summoned as a late-season fill-in for Furcal.
Kozma played steady defense, too, and that, more than the offensive production, is what the Cardinals are seeking in a replacement.
"When you look at our team, [and] the makeup of our club from an offensive standpoint, we have production at every position," general manager John Mozeliak said. "It should alleviate the stress of the shortstop. We view Kozma as a very good defensive shortstop."
Kozma went deep for the second time this spring on Thursday and is now 12-for-28 in Grapefruit League play. Cedeno, in contrast, has three hits in 18 spring at-bats.
"As long as I get a chance, that's all I can ask for. I'm going to run with it," Kozma said. "I have to do what I did last year. I have to carry it over into the season."
Rosenthal no longer in mix for Cards' rotation
JUPITER, Fla. -- The competition for the last opening in the Cardinals' rotation is down to two, as Trevor Rosenthal has been notified that he is now targeted for a bullpen spot. Rosenthal was told of the organization's decision on Wednesday, after he threw two scoreless innings in relief.
"He did a really good job preparing this spring to come in and start, and had a little bit different repertoire in the way he was using his pitches," manager Mike Matheny said. "His value to do so many different things for us in the bullpen was something we put such a value on that we didn't really want to delay going in that direction any further. Now we're preparing to give him the rest he needs to get back into that program."
While Rosenthal is technically still competing for a roster spot, every indication is that the Cardinals intend to carry him on the Opening Day roster. General manager John Mozeliak went so far as to say he'd be "shocked" if Rosenthal isn't among the 25 players to break camp with the Major League club.
Rosenthal entered Spring Training as one of three pitchers -- along with Joe Kelly and Shelby Miller -- vying for the same rotation spot. With Rosenthal now out of the mix, the Cardinals will have an easier time finding opportunities for all of the team's starters to get their needed game work.
"I told them I'm excited to do whatever I can to help out the team," said Rosenthal, ranked as the organization's fourth-best prospect coming into the season. "It is exciting having the role I had last year. Hopefully down the line, I'll have an opportunity to start again."
The Cardinals have not ruled that out and actually would use Rosenthal as a starter if he unexpectedly winds up starting the season in Triple-A. For now, though, the organization wants to further explore the potential benefits of including Rosenthal in the bullpen.
Rosenthal, 22, made his Major League debut as a reliever in 2012. He posted a 2.78 ERA in 19 regular-season appearances before giving the Cardinals 8 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in the postseason. His fastball regularly registered triple digits in that role.
With Rosenthal, the Cardinals believe they have a hard-throwing righty who can find a fit in the late-inning mix, along with setup men Edward Mujica and Mitchell Boggs.
"Having someone like a Rosenthal come in, it's dynamic," Mozeliak said. "You just look at the impact he had out of the bullpen for us. It just seemed to be the right fit for us."
Cards' extension talks with Wainwright ongoing
JUPITER, Fla. -- Dialogue between Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak and Steve Hammond, the agent for starter Adam Wainwright, remains ongoing, Mozeliak said, as the two sides continue to work toward an agreement that would keep Wainwright in St. Louis beyond this season.
Wainwright, who is due $12 million this year, will be a free agent at the end of the year if an extension is not reached before then. Both sides have expressed an interest in working out a deal that would keep Wainwright in St. Louis for the long term.
"We're still talking, which is encouraging," Mozeliak said. "I think any time you're talking, there's a level of optimism."
Though neither side has set a deadline for the negotiations, Mozeliak said that he'd like some clarity by Opening Day, which is 25 days away.
"There's no line in the sand. No one is demanding anything," Mozeliak said. "But once you get in-season, it's hard to focus on these things. There's no reason you can't revisit it at the All-Star break or something like that. But you don't see many extensions done in April, May. We're all working to try and reach a positive outcome. We'll see."
Wacha not likely to break big league rotation
JUPITER, Fla. -- Michael Wacha, as impressive as he has been in his first Spring Training, still appears headed to the Minors for the start of the season.
Asked if Wacha was pitching himself into consideration for a Major League rotation spot, general manager John Mozeliak described it as "unlikely" that the right-hander will start the year in St. Louis. Wacha has pitched well enough, though, to garner more looks in big league camp than initially anticipated.
Wacha, the No. 17 overall pick in the 2012 First-Year Player's Draft and the Cards' No. 6 prospect, has allowed four hits and one unearned run in 7 2/3 innings this spring. He has walked one and struck out 11. In 21 pro innings last year, Wacha struck out 40 and walked four.
"He has really opened a lot of eyes here," Mozeliak said. "I think as we look to let him gain experience, I think it's great to keep him around camp. In the end, we certainly have to think about what is best for him. And the fact is, it's demanding at the Major League level. We don't want to put him in a position if he's not ready for it physically."
The Cardinals entered spring open to considering Wacha for either the Double-A or Triple-A rotation. It's now expected that he'll be a part of the latter in Memphis.
• Matt Holliday was not available on Thursday as he left the Cardinals' complex early due to a stomach virus. Holliday is also not scheduled to travel to Viera, Fla., with the club to face the Nationals on Friday.
• The Cardinals recognized Triple-A pitching coach Bryan Eversgerd as the 2012 George Kissell Award winner on Thursday. The honor is given annually to a staff member for excellence in player development. Eversgerd, who served as the organization's Double-A pitching coach last year, is entering his 13th season as a coach within the organization.
• David Freese said he expects to serve as the team's designated hitter against the Nationals on Friday. Freese has not played since landing on his tailbone attempting to make a catch on Monday. He did resume hitting on Thursday after two days off.
• Reliever Marc Rzepczynski pitched a scoreless inning of relief on Thursday. It was the lefty's first appearance in a week. In between, he dealt with a brief bout of left biceps soreness.
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.