Cozart encouraged by rehab progress

Reds' shortstop expects to be 'stronger than ever' come Spring Training

Cozart encouraged by rehab progress

CINCINNATI -- The past 12 weeks since he suffered a dreadful right knee injury have hardly been fun for Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. However, the progress from his season-ending knee surgery has been steady, and it's left Cozart optimistic.

"It's been a slow three months, but it's crazy how every couple of weeks, I feel that much better," Cozart said on Monday. "I get to test my strength on Wednesday. If I'm strong enough, I get to begin running and some agilities."

On June 10 vs. the Phillies, Cozart stretched his right leg to beat out a grounder for an infield single. In a grisly moment, his foot slipped over the base and turned his leg awkwardly before he fell to the ground in agony. Cozart was later diagnosed with both torn anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments.

Cozart has been allowed to run on a zero-gravity treadmill without putting pressure on his knee, but he looks forward to doing the real thing. He's also undergoing daily rehabilitation and plenty of weightlifting.

"I've been doing a lot of therapy and little strengthening stuff to get the quad and hamstring stronger," Cozart said. "Every other day, I have a normal day where I go into the weight room and do my lower leg lifts and upper body lifts. I'm getting almost back to normal."

Working often with physical therapist Christy Sweeney, Cozart usually asks if he can take ground balls before the season is over. He hasn't been told no yet.

"She always says, 'We'll see.' That's my goal before the team gets out of here and the season is over, to be doing something out on the field -- nothing crazy," Cozart said. "Just to get out there, I miss it so much. I want to be out there to compete with the guys."

Cozart, 30, was having a strong season before his injury, batting .258/.310/.459 with nine home runs and 28 RBIs in 53 games. He has every expectation that he will be 100 percent and ready before camp opens in February.

"I'm itching to get back," Cozart said. "When these guys are taking their breathers a month into the offseason, I'll be itching to get back into it and taking as many ground balls and swings as I can. That's one positive. I'll have the whole offseason, and these three months I've had, to get stronger and stronger. I anticipate being stronger than ever at Spring Training."

Worth noting

• Center fielder Billy Hamilton is expected to be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday and be in the lineup vs. the Pirates, manager Bryan Price said. Hamilton went 2-for-3 with two walks and a stolen base in Sunday's rehab assignment game with Double-A Pensacola. Hamilton, who went on the DL Aug. 19 with a sprained capsule in his right shoulder, is 3-for-7 in two games for Pensacola.

Hamilton gets Escobar on review

• With Triple-A Louisville's season ending on Monday, four more September callups have been summoned to join the club on Tuesday. They will be left-handed pitchers Tony Cingrani and Brandon Finnegan, right-handed pitcher Josh Smith and utility player Kristopher Negron. Not being promoted is top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson, which came as a surprise because the club was looking to build up his innings total.

"I think he's going to do that down in the instructional league, that's my understanding," Price said. "We just want to get him up and get him the innings, so that if he makes the club or he's up during the season next year that ... we won't have to look at cutting him off in September because he hits an innings limit. My big concern for Robert is he get the innings. If it's not here, and we feel he's better served in the instructional league, I'm fine with that, as well."

• After mulling some alternatives, Price also announced that Keyvius Sampson would start for the Reds on Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh. Sampson has a 9.00 ERA over his last five starts and has not pitched more than four innings in any of his last four games.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.