ST. LOUIS -- Last September, Pete Kozma was an integral piece to the Cardinals' late-season run, solidifying the shortstop position and providing a spark in the lineup.
Fast forward one year and Kozma finds himself in a much different situation. The 25-year-old is seeing the field sparingly, and what was previously a time share at short has shifted mostly in Daniel Descalso's favor.
Though Descalso had started the last nine games prior to Tuesday, Kozma isn't entirely out of the mix. Kozma has seen time as a late-game defensive substitute or as a pinch-runner and pinch-hitter.
"Pete's been great at short all year for us," Descalso said. "For us to be able to bring him in a close and late game when we're ahead is a nice luxury to have."
In an effort to keep him sharp and add another right-handed bat to the lineup, Kozma was given the starting nod Tuesday versus Washington left-hander Gio Gonzalez.
"I like how we've been using him. I think it has fit really well," manager Mike Matheny said. "Danny's been doing a great job, but we also got to keep Pete engaged so that when we do put him in the games, he's ready to go."
While he would certainly prefer to resume being an everyday player, Kozma said he's just happy to help out his club in whatever capacity he can.
"[Matheny is] the manager, he knows better than I do," Kozma said. "He's been in the big leagues longer than me. If he feels comfortable putting me in there, then I feel comfortable being in there."
Holliday's bad back keeps him out of action
ST. LOUIS -- For a third straight game, Matt Holliday was held out Tuesday due to ongoing back spasms.
The left fielder was a late scratch the last two days and was out of the lineup again Tuesday versus Washington. Manager Mike Matheny said Holliday's back was still tight and that doctors recommended giving him at least one more day of rest.
The recurring issue is something Holliday has dealt with throughout his career. Its reemergence has been poor timing for the Cardinals, who could use Holliday's hot bat -- he was 13-for-26 with seven RBIs and a home run on the Cardinals' last road trip -- as they fight to fend off the Reds and Pirates in the National League Central race.
"I just think it tightens up every once in a while," Matheny said. "I think people with bad backs understand it just happens. It comes and goes. Hopefully, one more day, maybe tomorrow and the off-day. We'll see. [We] just have to follow along, see how it feels."
Injured Furcal doing his part to help Cards
ST. LOUIS -- Rafael Furcal returned to St. Louis this month in a new role. Sidelined after March Tommy John surgery, Furcal can't help his teammates on the field, so he's settling for the next best role, as a cheerleader in the dugout.
"Make everybody happy and try to push them and support them," Furcal said of his new role. "Sometimes watching the games, [it's difficult to] see my team lose, because I always think it's my fault. But life is like that. I'm so happy to see my team doing so good like they're doing right now, especially this time of year."
Furcal spent much of the season rehabbing back home in Miami, where he felt he could get the individual attention he needed to return to the field in 2014. Furcal joined his teammates taking ground balls on the field Tuesday.
"[The trainers have to] take care of the guys that play every day before you. I wanted to support myself so I can play baseball, because I want to come back and play for next year," Furcal said. "I got to take care of myself, but now, I'm here to support my team. I'm so excited to see my team where they are."
• Injured first baseman Allen Craig was away from the team Tuesday for personal reasons, Matheny said. Craig is back home in California, but is expected to return to St. Louis by Thursday when he is scheduled for X-rays and a re-evaluation of his sprained left foot.
• Matheny said the Cardinals won't set the starting rotation for the final series of the regular season -- a three-game set against the Cubs at Busch Stadium -- until after Wednesday's finale with Washington.
• Right fielder Carlos Beltran said the recently re-sodded outfield wasn't an issue in Monday's game. A college football game hosted Saturday at Busch Stadium required that a majority of the outfield be torn up and re-sodded in the roughly 48 hours between the game's conclusion and Monday night's opener versus the Nationals.
"It wasn't that bad," Beltran said. "I think the grounds crew did a good job trying to put the field together. It [played] a little bit fast, but not that bad."
• Prior to Tuesday's game, Adam Wainwright presented the $110,000 proceeds from his Waino's World fantasy football fundraiser to be split between two charity initiatives, Operation Food Search and Water Missions International.
Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.