Cozart eager to play, but Reds aren't rushing

Cozart eager to play, but Reds aren't rushing

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart won't be in the starting lineup on Friday when Cactus League play opens against the Giants (3:05 p.m. ET, live on Gameday Audio). Cozart, who finished last season on the disabled list with tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right knee, is 100 percent, however.

"He's fine. He could play tomorrow," manager Bryan Price said on Thursday. "They want to do some baserunning stuff with him to make sure his legs are conditioned coming off the DL at the end of the year. There's no reason he couldn't play. But why rush it with the length of Spring Training?"

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Cozart is eager to begin playing games, which will likely be either Monday or Tuesday.

"There are no issues with me, we're just going to take it slow these first couple of games," Cozart said. "It was weird yesterday, we were doing that 27 outs [drill] and hitting and running out of the box, and having some game action on the field. It's just a whole different thing on your body. I'm ready for it. I told Bryan, physically, I feel great. I'm ready. We play a lot of games. I don't need to play 30 games or whatever we've got. I'll get my timing down."

Cozart on his leadership role

In 121 games last season, Cozart batted .252/.308/.425 with a career-high 16 home runs and 50 RBIs. He did not play a game after Sept. 10, but the season was considered very much a positive due to how he rebounded from reconstructive surgery in 2015.

One area Cozart does want to get comfortable with during games is playing next to second baseman Jose Peraza. The two will be a double-play combination this season since Brandon Phillips was traded to the Braves on Feb. 12. Cozart had been paired with Phillips most of the time since he broke into the Majors in 2011.

"In the past, with Brandon, we knew each other so well, we didn't have to be together, but I'm pretty sure Bryan knows that," Cozart said. "We need to get that timing down more and more. No matter what you say, being with a new guy consistently, the timing is going to be way different. Brandon did stuff different than Jose. The communication's been great. Jose's been asking me questions.

"It's been really cool for a young guy to come up to me and ask me stuff. He's been great. I'm looking forward to him continuing what he did last year. I don't see why he wouldn't, he's such a good young kid, he works hard. He wants to be really good, you can tell. There's just certain guys you can tell. You can tell with him."

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.