Reds SS Cozart healed from 2 surgeries

Zack Cozart spent the offseason recovering from two significant

surgeries, trying to get his elbow and ankle to work properly

again. Now, he’s back to full health, ready to compete for the

Cincinnati Reds’ shortstop job.

Cozart is one of the Reds’ biggest questions in camp because of

his lack of experience in the majors and his offseason

rehabilitation on his left elbow and right ankle. So far, he’s

having no problems with what ailed him.

”I’ve been going hard at it for three weeks, taking ground

balls, running. Everything feels good,” Cozart said on Thursday, a

day before the rest of the position players report for camp.

The Reds have questions about the left side of the infield.

Cozart tore a ligament in his non-throwing elbow while trying to

make a tag and had reconstructive surgery in August. He also had

his right ankle cleaned out.

Third baseman Scott Rolen is coming off surgery on his left

shoulder last August. He and Cozart are expected to start if they

have no lingering health problems.

Cozart was one of the Reds’ biggest surprises last season,

playing very well in his first promotion to the majors. With Paul

Janish and Edgar Renteria struggling at shortstop, the Reds called

up Cozart on July 7 after he hit .310 at Triple-A Louisville.

He made an impact immediately, batting .324 with two homers in

11 games. In that 11th game, he tore up his elbow and was done.

Even though he had so few games in the majors, the Reds are

giving him a chance to be the starter.

”He did well at Triple-A,” manager Dusty Baker said. ”He

wasn’t rushed through the system. He’s gotten better. I like his

play at shortstop, his deceptive speed and relative power. I wish

we could have seen him longer.”

Last spring, Cozart was among the last players cut because of

his .394 batting average.

”Last year, my goal was to open eyes, to show (general manager

Walt Jocketty) and Dusty that I could play,” Cozart said. ”You

can’t put too much stock in spring training, but I had a pretty

good spring. I thought I made them at least think about it.”

When he hurt his elbow, doctors told him he would have enough

time to heal for spring training.

”The elbow was harder to rehab, but I knew my elbow would come

back 100 percent,” Cozart said. ”For me, the ankle was more

important. I didn’t want to get held back on defense, going side to

side, stealing bases or anything like that. I couldn’t do any of

that the way I wanted to.”

Cozart said the ankle started bothering him occasionally during

spring training last year.

”Once the season started, it would bother me pretty bad,” he

said. ”It was something I could play through. But I wasn’t 100

percent the whole year.”

Baker will give him a chance to bat second in the order, the

place he hit during his brief stay last year.

”It’s an important spot,” Baker said. ”Age is a small part of

the factor, ability, aptitude, unselfishness. That’s where the most

unselfish player, the smartest player bats. You have to take

pitches that could put you in the hole.”