Cozart takes 'first step' toward return from injury

Cozart takes 'first step' toward return from injury

CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart made progress toward getting back in the lineup on Wednesday when he was able to take ground balls on the field and batting practice. Cozart, who has not been in the lineup since Aug. 17, was bothered by a sore right knee and left Achilles tendon inflammation.

The knee improved more quickly, but the Achilles needed extra time and treatment.

"This is just the first step towards getting him back in games," Reds manager Bryan Price said after watching Cozart work on the field. "I don't think it will be a whole lot longer. In the same respect, we'll kind of continue to err on the side of caution to make sure -- to the best of our ability -- to avoid setbacks."

The Achilles injury, which had Cozart in a walking boot for a few days, had prevented him from moving well to make plays. But there were no issues holding him back on Wednesday.

"I felt really good," Cozart said. "It just feels good to be out there moving around and not being hindered. So far, so good. My main concern is moving out on defense. I don't anticipate hitting being a big deal, since I felt so good out there defensively."

Cozart is batting .263 with a .755 OPS this season, a career-high tying 15 home runs and 46 RBIs. After he originally hoped to be back on Tuesday, he is now eyeing Friday's road trip opener at Arizona for his return.

Price was not ready to sign off on that just yet, and noted it was probably unlikely. Jose Peraza has been filling in at shortstop in Cozart's absence and performing well, creating less of a need to rush.

"I'm not writing him into the lineup for the first game in Arizona," Price said. "We've got to get through today, get through the off-day [Thursday] and then see how he feels when we get to Phoenix."

Prospect Stephenson done for season

 

Class A Dayton catcher and 2015 first-round Draft pick Tyler Stephenson will have season-ending left wrist surgery on Tuesday. The 19-year-old Stephenson, who is ranked as the organization's No. 9 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, has battled through an injured-filled 2016 season.

In 39 games for Dayton, Stephenson batted .216/.278/.324 with three home runs and 16 RBIs.

Worth noting

Reds Minor League right-handed pitchers Israel Cuevas, Felix Jimenez and Enyer Morales each received 72-game suspensions without pay on Wednesday after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The suspensions of all three players are effective immediately. Cuevas and Morales are on the roster of the rookie-level Dominican Summer League Reds. Jimenez is on the roster of the rookie-level DSL Reds2.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.