A photo of Jay Bruce stares at shortstop Zack Cozart from the wall next to his new locker, which until Tuesday was Bruce’s locker.
It’s one of two double-wide lockers on one end of the Cincinnati Reds clubhouse at Great American Ball Park. Joey Votto has the other. The spacious lockers are the closest to the hallway leading to the dugout.
Cozart inherited the locker, at Bruce’s request, when the Reds dealt Bruce to the New York Mets on Monday for two minor-league prospects, infielder Dilson Herrera and pitcher Max Wotell.
Cozart first heard about the locker change when catcher Tucker Barnhart sent him a photo of his jersey hanging in the locker. The locker belonged to Ken Griffey Jr. during his days with the Reds. Cozart said Bruce asked clubhouse manager Rick Stowe to give his locker to Cozart when Bruce moved his stuff out after the trade Monday.
“Bruce is a legend around here,” Cozart said. “You’ve got to do what he says. I’ve got some big shoes to fill. That’s for sure. Me and Brucie were really close. It was bittersweet to see him go. I told him I hope I see him in the postseason. I don’t watch the postseason that often, but if he’s playing for the Mets in the postseason, I will be watching every game and rooting for him.”
Cozart almost found himself playing for a contender as well. There were reports he was almost traded to the Seattle Mariners, and Cozart was following the rumors just like everyone else Monday.
“I was sitting there watching the clock, waiting for my phone to ring from 10 o’clock on,” Cozart said. “We got home late. I went to bed. I woke up around 10. My phone had been blowing up. I guess Seattle’s beat guy said they were really close to acquiring me. I talked to my wife. We had my baby boy. I said, ‘Hey, we should start packing up.’ When you see stuff like that, usually that stuff goes down. It was a long six hours from 10 to 4. I didn’t get a text. I didn’t get a call. I was just waiting. Then nothing. Then 4 o’clock passed, and it didn’t happen. I’m happy as can be to be here. I love the guys here. I wish Brucie was still here. It is what it is.”
Reds manager Bryan Price was relieved he could at least pencil Cozart’s name into the lineup Tuesday for the series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
“I think very highly of the two guys that were mostly talked about in those trade rumors,” Price said. “Their performance is not easily replaceable, and their character is even harder to replace. That would have been a double hit that I was hoping we wouldn’t take.”