Cozart off to hot start for Reds

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Entering play Friday night, the Reds couldn’t have asked for a better start. With a series sweep against the Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati boasts a 3-0 record with the Pittsburgh Pirates coming to town for a three-game set.

With the Reds predicted to finish near the cellar in the National League Central standings, the hot start was an much needed vote of confidence for a young team.

One of those players who has taken advantage of the quick start is shortstop Zack Cozart. Coming off a season-ending knee injury, which Cozart sustained on June 9 — at Wrigley Field in Chicago — Cozart has went 4-for-7 (.571) at the plate with two doubles and an RBI.

“I’m really happy for him. He’s been through an absolutely miserable several months, getting that knee back into shape to be able to play,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I’m tickled to death now that he’s back in the lineup and looking so good.”

In his first game back, on Opening Day, Cozart went a perfect 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly, which lead to the game-tying run in the eighth inning, as he returned to hit leadoff for the Redlegs.

“It was great, especially sliding into the leadoff spot and not making to big of a deal of it,” Price said. “He was aggressive from the first pitch. He was looking for pitches out over the plate and he covered it really well all four at bats …

” … He was smoking the ball.”

While he didn’t want to diminish his work at the plate, Cozart was more relieved when he rounded the bases after his leadoff hit to begin the 2016 campaign in Cincinnati.

“It’s huge,” Cozart said. “To be honest with you, the best thing about it was how good I felt running, running the bases and everything, I felt like my speed was the same as it was before the injury. I’ll take that and obviously getting the hits and stuff feels good too. I’m just happy to be out there and be in a lineup, and physically help the team win any way I can.”

Price said after the 6-2 victory over the Phillies on Opening Day, Cozart has worked on becoming a more well-rounded hitter and the results have paid off early.

“I’m sure really big for Zack and the other part of it is, when this kid came up to the big leagues, this kid had some power,” Price said. “He hit 15 homers in that first full year I think in 2012 but a lot of the things that he did were to the pull side, he really struggled with the ball out over the plate away from him. He rarely hit the ball to right field or right center and today that’s all he did … “

Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.

Reach Chris Slone at 740-353-3101, ext 1930, or on Twitter @crslone.

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