Cozart eager for return to starting lineup

Reds shortstop healthy after being sidelined with Achilles inflammation

Cozart eager for return to starting lineup

PHOENIX -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart is really itching to play again, especially since he is no longer bothered by the left Achilles tendon inflammation that's kept him out of the lineup since Aug. 17.

"We've been playing so well. It's been a lot more fun to watch than if we were losing, but I want to be out there and help the team win just as much. I'm ready to get out there," Cozart said Friday before the Reds' 4-3 loss to the D-backs in 11 innings.

It's likely he'll get his wish on Saturday. Jose Peraza started again in his place Friday at Chase Field.

Cozart did all of his normal pregame work -- early hitting, fielding, running and regular batting practice. He was able to come off the bench and pinch-hit, delivering a two-out double to left field in the seventh inning.

"I haven't had any pains in that area in three or four days," Cozart said. "That's how I feel like I'm ready. It's probably smarter to take today, get my feet wet after a day off yesterday and be ready tomorrow."

Cozart was initially bothered by Achilles soreness and pain in his surgically repaired right knee. The knee recovered quickly but the Achilles took longer, despite several therapies that included massage and a chiropractor. Reds manager Bryan Price and the club have been cautious with Cozart, giving him as much time as he needs to return, and now even an extra day.

Worth noting

• Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart was scratched about an hour before game time Friday because of right hand soreness. Ramon Cabrera started in Barnhart's place. Barnhart was recently hit on the hand by a bat in the series vs. the Dodgers. X-rays taken Friday were negative.

"I was taking BP today and it was hurting a little more than it has been for the last week," Barnhart said. "It's just affecting the way I can grip the bat and throw. We made the executive decision to not play tonight and take it day by day."

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.