HOUSTON -- Pete Kozma had already been resigned to the fact that a callup to the A’s big league roster was probably not in the cards for 2021. So when Las Vegas Aviators manager Fran Riordan broke the news, Kozma assumed he was part of some cruel prank that was being played on him.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was real,” Kozma said. “I thought he was just joking with me.”
It was indeed real. On Friday, with only three games left in the regular season, the A’s selected Kozma from Triple-A Las Vegas. The 33-year-old veteran infielder is finally back in the Major Leagues for the first time since 2018.
"A lot of hard work went into this,” Kozma said. “It’s a little rewarding, but we have three games left, so still got some work to do.”
Kozma was in the starting lineup against the Astros at shortstop for Friday’s three-game series opener, and he should see plenty of playing time over the next few days. He’s practically the only legitimate shortstop left on the roster, with Elvis Andrus already out for the year and fellow infielder Vimael Machín placed on the injured list prior to Friday’s game with a non-COVID 19 related stomach illness.
In 113 games for Las Vegas, Kozma is batting .244 with four home runs and 40 RBIs. Though it’s his first time up with the A’s, manager Bob Melvin saw plenty that he liked in Spring Training, when Kozma was in camp on a Minor League deal as a non-roster invite.
“He’s a true shortstop,” Melvin said. “We’ve had to maneuver around that a little bit. We knew coming in that Koz would get some playing time, and it’s nice to have a guy that is experienced at the position. This is a guy that I would have thought, at some point in time this season, would be here.”
The A’s don’t have much to play for over the next three games in terms of postseason aspirations. Those came to an end when they were officially eliminated from playoff contention on Wednesday. For Kozma, though, this final series of the season means everything.
“I feel like I’m supposed to be here,” Kozma said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Laureano undergoes surgery
The A’s announced that Ramón Laureano, who is currently serving an 80-game suspension without pay after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance earlier this season, underwent surgery for a core injury on Thursday in Philadelphia with Dr. William Meyers. The surgery was decided upon after Laureano had experienced symptoms of discomfort after returning home to train in the aftermath of his suspension.
“My understanding is that it’s a sports hernia,” Melvin said. “How much that affected him over the course of the year, I’m not sure. I didn’t hear a ton about it. The fact he had surgery, it was problem for him. He’s trying to get everything cleaned up and be fully healthy when he comes back next season.”
Laureano will head to Arizona, where he will resume his rehab program in the coming months leading up to Spring Training in February.