Feeling 'really good,' Cozart near spring debut

Reds shortstop, coming off knee surgery, could see first game this weekend

Feeling 'really good,' Cozart near spring debut

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In one of his final steps toward making his spring debut, Zack Cozart had to get dirty Tuesday afternoon.

The Reds shortstop, who is trying to return from reconstructive right knee surgery, faced Raisel Iglesias in a simulated game at the Reds complex in Goodyear. Then he took a few slides into the dirt at second base. It's likely that Cozart will be in the lineup for the first time by the weekend.

"I slid the other day just on grass," Cozart said. "I slid today on dirt and it felt really good. I think that would be the last hurdle for me but that's not an issue. It's not my sliding leg anyway. I knew that wouldn't be an issue."

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On June 10 vs. the Phillies, the 30-year-old Cozart tore both the anterior cruciate and lateral collateral ligaments when he slipped on first base and needed season-ending surgery.

Cozart has been getting itchy to play again.

"It's been so long. It will be nine months exactly in two days since I got hurt," Cozart said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to it. I'm just really excited. I'm interested to see how I'll feel out there. Each day I come in and get my ground balls and I see the ball live off the bat during batting practice, it gets easier and easier. Everything is slowing down for me. The first day I was out there seeing it, it was 'Dang, these balls are being hit really hard. I don't know about this.'

"But every day is getting easier and easier. I feel good. I'm a normal guy."

Each day this spring, Cozart has been doing a normal routine of taking ground balls, batting practice and running -- all without setbacks.

"He's close," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "For sure, unless he has some sort of a setback, you'll see him in a game by Saturday."

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.