Cardinals to groom infielders as backup catchers

Cardinals to groom infielders as backup catchers

JUPITER, Fla. -- Though unlikely to appear behind the plate in actual Grapefruit League games, infielders Pete Kozma and Greg Garcia are targeted to get some work this spring in preparation for serving as potential emergency catchers for the Cardinals this season.

Since their last emergency catcher (Daniel Descalso) is now with the Rockies, manager Mike Matheny said the club is looking to groom a few other players for the position. Usage would be minimal -- or, as the Cardinals hope, not at all -- but it would give the club a backup plan should a situation arise where both of its regular catchers are forced out of a game.

"We had to know that there was somebody on the bench who could get behind the plate," Matheny said.

Kozma and Garcia are among the group of utility infielders in competition for bench jobs. Preparing for that role will take precedent, with the catching exercises likely to come in the batting cages or on the backfields separate of game play. Neither infielder has ever caught in a professional game.

"I'll welcome anything," said Kozma, who may also see limited time in the outfield this spring. "I'll expect the unexpected, I guess. Be ready for anything. It doesn't matter where I play. As long as I'm on the field somewhere, I'm OK."

Kozma, whose ability to play shortstop and status as an out-of-options player improve his chances of winning a spot on the Opening Day roster, said he intends to seek out catching instruction from Yadier Molina and Tony Cruz in camp.

"I know how to call a game," Kozma said. "I can see all of Yadi's signs. Whenever he makes a mound visit, I'm right there. ... Getting back there and actually doing it, the ball will be a little different than being at the plate or seeing it. I will be able to see a lot more."

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.