Shortstop Zack Cozart ‘glad’ to still be with Reds, lead young players

The way things were going in the offseason it looked like the Cincinnati Reds might report to spring training with a completely new double-play combination. Second baseman Brandon Phillips and shortstop Zack Cozart were both mentioned in trade rumors back in December.

Phillips finally agreed to waive his no-trade clause and approved a trade to the Braves last week , while the rumors about Cozart never came to fruition.

“I read the rumors just like everybody else,” Cozart said. “Obviously a couple of days ago with Brandon it was kind of shocking to me, but you know I’m glad I’m here. All I know is Cincinnati Reds baseball and I want more than anything … to show these young guys that the most important thing to the game is winning.”

Phillips and Cozart blanketed the middle of the Reds infield ever since Cozart was called up in 2011. The tandem wasn’t close enough to finish each other’s sentences, but they did silence plenty of big innings.

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“We didn’t even have to look at each other,” he said. We knew where everybody was going to be positioned depending on who was hitting. My five and a half years in the big leagues he was, 99 percent of the time, the second baseman so it’s going to be weird for sure.”

Cozart will now spend the next six weeks getting comfortable with his new partner Jose Peraza.

“That’s what’s good with the trade happening before spring training, it gives me and Jose get to go out there and get that chemistry,” Cozart said. “He’s going to be good but it will definitely be weird without No. 4 (Phillips) out there.”

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Cozart had a solid season last year coming off major knee surgery in 2015. He hit .252 with a career-high 16 home runs, but those numbers came with a price.

“You know I never felt great last year,” he said. “I’m close to two years out of my surgery, I’m feeling really good and I’m looking forward to playing baseball and not having to worry if my knee will feel good.”

Cozart said the trade talk was tough this winter, but it also wasn’t easy for Bryan Price to think about either.

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“You need a quarterback at shortstop,” Price said earlier this week. “He embraces the responsibilities of knowing where everyone is supposed to be on the field. The way he plays shows the other guys around him what it takes to be a big league player.”

Cozart and the Reds avoided salary arbitration with a one-year deal worth $5 million. He becomes a free-agent in 2018 so his status in Cincinnati isn’t rock solid.

“I consider it lucky to be at this stage of my career where I’m getting to free agency and I’ve played long enough to where there is some value in trading me,” Cozart said.

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