CINCINNATI — Zack Cozart’s view from the dugout is a seat he’d rather not occupy, but he certainly loves what he sees transpiring on the field.
Cozart was wearing a boot on his left foot Sunday morning, a maneuver to immobilize his tender Achilles tendon, an injury that has kept him anchored to a dugout seat since Wednesday. He hopes to return to the field on Tuesday, but it is a grueling and frustrating day-to-day thing for the Cincinnati Reds ever-improving shortstop.
“It’s fun and the second half of the year has been obvioulsy night and day from before,” Cozart said of his team’s five straight wins and 21-12 record since the All-Star break, second best record in the majors in that span. “The clubhouse is so much better. Everybody is in a better mood. When you win, it cures everything.
“I’ve always said that when you go 0 for 4 but the team wins then it doesn’t matter,” he added.
COZART HAS A STRONG and stern message for the fans about what they saw in the first half and what they are seeing now.
“I hope people see that this is the kind of team we can have if we’re healthy,” he said. “The way we’re playing now is giving people confidence on how we’re going to play next year. We’ll be healthy (hopefully) and we have the pitching.
“Pitching is key, simple as that,” he said. “Now we have Disco (Anthony DeSclafani), we have Homer (Bailey) and (Michael) Lorenzen and Iggy (Raisel Iglesias have shored up the bullpen. All of a sudden everybody is pitching great. It is no secret. Pitching wins.”
COZART REPEATED HOW fun trumps despair every time and that if he has to sit in the dugout winning makes it palatable, to a point.
“When you are up 8-0 in the fifth inning (as the Reds were over the Dodgers Saturday night), it makes it a lot easier on everybody. I’m sure manager Bryan Price is relaxing a little bit. When you go out there after a game to shake hands it is much better than the stretch we had earlier where it was, ‘Show up, lose, show up, lose, show up, lose.’”
Winning can do wonders for the brain.
“Our mindset is completely opposite from what it was before,” said Cozart. “Now we show up and we think we’re one of the better teams. We’re not just beating up on teams that are not good. We’re beating good teams consistently.”
WHEN THE LOS ANGELES DODGERS came to town for a four-game weekend series, they led the National League West by a half-game over the San Francisco Giants and were playing sterling baseball. The Reds submerged them in a yellow submarine the first two games, 9-2 and 11-1.
“They said on TV the Dodgers came to town with the best earned run average in MLB,” said Cozart. “We just crushed them. And they’d been hitting well and our pitching just shut them down. So it’s not just one part of the game. We’re beating teams in every facet.
“We beat the Miami Marlins three of four, we beat the Giants (two of three) at their place, before the break we won at the Cubs,” he said. “We’ve been pretty consistent ever since we got healthier. Let’s hope people see we’re turning the corner and we’re competing and we think we’re going to be better sooner than later. We think it — and that’s all the matters.”
DESPITE THE UPTICK, the Reds won’t make the playoffs, so Cozart is pulling for former teammate Jay Bruce to make the playoffs with the New York Mets, although the Mets have been staggering with a plethora of injuries since Bruce joined them at the trading deadline.
“I check on him every day and hope they make the playoffs, but I don’t know if they are going to,” Cozart said. “You never know, still a month left. I hope I get to watch him in October. When he got traded he is the only man I want to see in October. I don’t watch too much of the playoffs because I’m so jealous of those guys, so I’d watch him because he is somebody to pull for.”
AS FOR COZART’S RETURN, the medical staff and manager Bryan Price control the reins.
“He has to do some baseball activity and get out of the boot,” said Price. “We’re trying to immobilize the foot like they did with Adam Duvall. He has to be able to get in the tub and pool and do activities in the water, range of motion stuff, build up strength and get the inflammation out.”
Cozart said Sunday was a training room/pool day and he planned to try baseball activities Monday, aiming at Tuesday for his return to the lineup.
Cozart said the Achilles has bothered him all year and added it probably comes from compensating for his surgically repaired right knee.
“On Wednesday, Miami’s Martin Prado hit a ball about five feet to my right and I couldn’t even go after it because it hurt,” said Cozart. “I talked to Bryan after the game and said, ‘Look, it is not good.’ It is one thing hitting and it doesn’t feel great hitting, but I don’t really care about hitting, but if I can’t play defense I need to get it calmed down.
“It is basically just an overuse injury, nothing serious,” he said. “It is a small pocket of inflammation. It is from only playing 50 games last year and having the surgery and coming back to play 110 games. My body is not out of shape, but I’m not in normal form because I didn’t get to play as much last year.”
COZART RECALLED HIS off-season rehab last winter and when he ran he asked his wife how he looked and she said, “Not good. You are running like a sissy.”
“I thought I was feeling better and doing better and she said that and I said, ‘OK, thanks a lot, honey,’” he said. “I was jogging and she said, ‘No, that doesn’t look good.’ She keeps me on my toes.”
BOTH JOEY VOTTO AND Scott Schebler were out of Sunday’s lineup, merely a day of rest.
“This is the first scheduled day off for Joey since we were in Texas (Houston) in the middle of June and he actually got sick a couple of days in that stretch,” said Price. “So, yeah, just a scheduled day off. Both Joey and Schebler will be back tomorrow (Monday).
QUOTE OF THE DAY: Manager Bryan Price on the Reds finally extricating themselves from last place to fourth place: “Like the Jeffersons, we’re movin’ on up.”