ST. LOUIS -- Nick Punto had a hunch that he was dealing with more than just a little soreness. On Wednesday, his fears were confirmed.
The Cardinals placed Punto on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday due to what the club is calling a "right forearm flexor strain." He will be eligible to be reinstated on June 3. To take Punto's place on the roster, the club recalled Pete Kozma from Triple-A Memphis.
"I knew there was definitely a little more than a sore elbow," Punto said. "I was just trying to be optimistic that it would go away with treatment and the stuff we've been doing. But the experts, the doctors and trainers just believe it's best to take a little bit of time. For me, that's frustrating. But in the grand scheme of things, it's probably the right thing to do, as frustrating as it is."
Punto had emerged as a valuable reserve for a team already down two infielders. David Freese is out, likely until July, due to a broken bone in his left hand, while Skip Schumaker is recovering from a strained right triceps muscle. Schumaker's return could be within a week, but for the time being, the Cardinals are thin in the infield.
Punto is hitting .262 with a .355 on-base percentage this season and has played second base, shortstop and third base. He had served as the club's primary second baseman in Schumaker's absence.
"He's really playing well for us," said manager Tony La Russa, who estimated that Punto would only need the minimum 15 days before he can play again.
For five days, Punto will be held out of all baseball activities. He will receive an anti-inflammatory shot while he is sidelined, and he hopes that the combination of rest and medication will allow him to play at full strength. He said that hitting was not a significant issue, but that he felt some discomfort in his arm when he threw.
Kozma, a former first-round Draft selection, will make his big league debut upon his first appearance. He was taken 18th overall in 2007. The infielder was batting .220 with a .284 on-base percentage and a .284 slugging percentage in his first stint at Triple-A. He's batted .241 with a .316 on-base percentage and a .349 slugging percentage in 466 games during his Minor League career.
He is regarded as having the tools to be an excellent defensive shortstop, though he was charged with 34 errors at Double-A in 2010. Kozma has played almost exclusively shortstop in Minor League games, but he has worked out some at second base and third base.
"I talked to [Memphis manager Chris] Maloney yesterday, and he said he'd been playing very well," La Russa said. "[He was] getting his share of hits [and] has been impressive. He's here to fill some needs. If the need arises, [we'll] use him. If there's a way to give him a break-in period, you jump at it, but you can't tell how the game is going to go."
The 23-year-old will be the club's third former first-round pick on its current roster -- joining Colby Rasmus and Tyler Greene. Former draftee Brett Wallace, selected in the first round by the Cardinals in 2008, was also on the field Wednesday night. Wallace, who was traded to Oakland in the 2009 deal to acquire Matt Holliday, is in town with the Houston Astros.
Kozma was batting .245 (13-for-53) with 12 RBIs in 16 games during the month of May, and the infielder distinguished himself with a four-RBI game for Memphis on Saturday and with a four-hit effort the following day.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.