CINCINNATI — Zack Cozart feels like the fourth wheel on a tricycle. He is hanging around, but what good is he?
Cozart is enduring the one thing baseball players hate to have to do, as necessary as it is.
He comes to the ballpark every day, but he doesn’t play. He works. He works hard. Then he puts on his uniform and sits in the dugout and watches.
WHAT MAKES IT even more difficult is that mostly he watches his team lose, knowing all he can do is sit and watch and think about what might have been.
Cozart tore the ACL in his right knee in early June and underwent major surgery. It is a slow and rugged rehabilitation process.
But Cozart, the Cincinnati Reds shortstop who was having a career year when he tore the ACL running out a ground ball, is confident that when spring training begins he will be at his position ready to play.
“It has been a tough year in general,” said Cozart. “I don’t like going out there and watching my teammates go through the way the season has gone. I like to compete and I want to be out there for them and try to win as many games as possible. Any time you have an injury and can’t do what you love to do it is tough.”
COZART WAS HITTING .258 with nine homers, 10 doubles and 28 RBI after 194 at bats when he shattered his knee. And his defense was not just Gold Glove calibre, it was pure platinum.
“The positive thing about this is that I worked my tail off in the off-season last year to work on my swing,” he said. “I paid so much attention to details about my swing. So I’m confident that during this off-season, once I’m able to get back into baseball stuff that I’ll pick up where I left off. I’ll be rusty, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Cozart said that as of now the only thing he is not permitted to do is make sharp cuts, quick turns. He is running, he is doing agility drills, he is playing catch and he is doing a normal weight-lifting program.
“It is a matter of just getting everything strong again,” he said. “The time-table doing sharp cuts and stop-and-go running is mid-November to early December. I’m well on pace.”
COZART WILL BE fitted with a support brace before Thanksgiving, before he begins his stop-and-start running. How long will he wear it? As long as he feels he needs it or doesn’t need it.
“It doesn’t mean I’ll have to play with a brace,” he said. “I’ve talked to guys who have had ACL surgery and for them it was a comfort zone to have the brace on for a while. But I’ve talked to other guys who said they didn’t need it at all.”
And how is his confidence level over being able to play when spring training commences?
“I show up here (for an examination) every two weeks and I feel way better every time than I did the previous two weeks,” he said. “It has only been three months since I’ve had surgery and I have five months before spring training. So I don’t anticipate not being able to play. The goal right now is to be ready on Day One of spring training.”
BILLY HAMILTON’S surgery to clean up debris in his right shoulder was performed Tuesday and the prognosis is for him to be in a sling for a couple of week and in four to six weeks he will be ready to begin his off-season baseball program.
“The four to six weeks is a great timetable,” said manager Bryan Price. “Then he’ll be able to do baseball-related stuff. This won’t deter him from any of his off-season workout program. The things we want him to focus on are on the offensive side of his game, bunting in particular.”
THERE WAS TALK early this season that the Reds might encourage Hamilton to disband his switch-hitting and bat only from his natural right side. That’s the way he began his career but in the minors he was encourage to learn to switch-hit.
It hasn’t gone well, especially since he bats more from the left side than his natural right side. This year he hit .220 as a left hander and .241 as a right hander.
But the Reds are not giving up on him as a switch-hitter.
“We’ve had more conversation about having him hit from the left side as well as the right,” said Price. “We’ve checked the historical perspective of guys who have started switch-hitting late in life and what it took from them to get over the hump and become proficient. Some of the more outstanding players stuck with it and mastered it. No one here is yet ready to turn the page on Billy as a switch-hitter.”
WHILE HAMILTON HAS struggled mightily offensively the last year-and-a-half, Price says he sees sneak previews of what Hamilton can do.
“He can have some really nice runs offensively,” said Price. “He can do some things when the ball is on the barrel a lot and not in the air. It is like seeing a guy snap off a real good curve ball and then seeing him throw three or four in a row. You know it’s in there and we want to continue to chase the best possible outcome for Billy.”
PITCHER JON MOSCOT, who injured his left (non-throwing) shoulder trying to make a diving tag at second base and underwent surgery, will performed in the bullpen for the first time in the next couple of days, and then will continue the process after the season in Arizona.
And if he responds well in Arizona, there is a possibility he could do some winter ball pitching.