Back in 'meaningful game,' Cozart a catalyst

Back in 'meaningful game,' Cozart a catalyst

CINCINNATI -- The Reds also happened to be playing the Phillies back on June 10 when shortstop Zack Cozart slipped on first base running out a ground ball. He tore two ligaments in his right knee and missed the rest of the season after needing reconstructive surgery and a long rehab.

In a 6-2 Opening Day win on Monday against those Phillies, Cozart came roaring back. Put in the leadoff spot by manager Bryan Price, the shortstop went 3-for-3, and his sacrifice fly in the eighth tied it up after Cincinnati trailed by a 2-1 score, setting the stage for a five-run inning.

"For me, personally, I didn't know what to expect today, because it's been so long since I had been out there in a meaningful game," Cozart said. "It felt good just to hear my name announced to be in the lineup and to be able to physically get out there and compete. That's the No. 1 thing I missed -- to be out there with the guys, win or lose, competing and trying to help them win."

Price, Reds starters introduced

Cozart had all three of his hits vs. Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, who didn't allow a hit to any other Reds player in his six innings of work.

"I'm glad Cozart was on the team today, or we might have been in trouble," Reds right fielder Jay Bruce said.

In the first inning, Cozart overcame a heavy shift to the left side by lining a double to right field. He scored when next batter Eugenio Suarez reached on an error.

Cozart scores on error

Like in Spring Training, Cozart's surgically repaired knee showed no signs of trouble. He didn't get into his first game until March 11.

"I felt great physically, so that's a positive," he said. "I think getting that first hit calmed me down a little bit. It's the same game I've been playing forever. It's just been a while since I've played."

Cozart returned with a single in the third inning and lined a double to left field in the sixth. He is the first Reds shortstop to get three Opening Day hits since Barry Larkin in 2001 vs. the Braves. Cozart is also the first shortstop on the club to collect two Opening Day doubles since Davey Concepcion vs. the Phillies in 1981.

In the eighth vs. reliever David Hernandez, the bases were loaded when Cozart hit a fly ball to short right field. Pinch-runner Tyler Holt was speedy enough to score on the play with a head-first slide across the plate.

Cozart's game-tying sac fly

"At the very end of Spring Training, he wasn't at his best," Price said. "He was having better at-bats, I think, at the front end of his Spring Training. I don't think it could have come at a better time than Opening Day to come out there -- he shot some balls to right field with some authority. And of course, the big sac fly to tie the ballgame in the eighth inning. That was a big at-bat when we needed him to come through in that situation and take the heat off of the guys behind him."

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.