Zack Cozart bent over in pain after getting hit on the hand by a pitch while bunting Saturday afternoon. The Reds shortstop thought the worst. Manager Dusty Baker did, too, flashing back to former Dodgers teammate Bill Russell suffering a similar injury and breaking the finger in seven spots.
Cozart was much luckier, and he knows it. He missed Sunday’s 10-6 win over the Marlins but returned to the lineup Monday night against the Cubs in the first game of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
“Saturday it was sore when I left,” Cozart said. “I didn’t really know how it was going to heal. (Sunday) I got here, and it felt pretty good before I did anything. I talked to (trainer) Paul (Lessard) and said, ‘Hey, I want to throw a little bit and test it out.’ It felt pretty good yesterday. I thought after I did that today was going to be a day I could easily play.”
Cesar Izturis started in Cozart’s place Sunday and went 0-for-2 with two walks.
Cozart has hit safely in six of his last eight games. His average has jumped from .114 to .225. He was just glad to avoid a worse injury.
“I was pretty scared,” he said. “Most of the time when you see that happen, it’s not a good outcome. It had never happened to me. That’s probably the first time I’ve been hit in the fingers hitting. The reason it’s scary is because you don’t have any padding on the fingers. It’s just basically hitting your bone.”
Cozart didn’t want to miss the game because the Cubs started Travis Wood, a former Red, on the mound. Wood and Cozart were teammates at Double-A Carolina in 2009 and at Triple-A Louisville in 2010.
“Coming up through the minor leagues, you get pretty close to guys,” Wood said. “We were pretty close before the trade. It’s kind of weird and cool at the same time facing him.”
“When you don’t play against your friend, they think you’re ducking them,” Baker said. “I know I could never sit out against J.R. (Richard). Hank (Aaron) said, ‘You’ve got to take your punishment.’ ”
Rehab appearance: Reliever Sean Marshall was expected to pitch in Louisville on Monday night. He has been on the disabled list since April 10 with tendinitis in his left shoulder.
Marshall battled the shoulder pain in spring training and made just one appearance with the Reds on April 7 before going on the disabled list. He could make multiple rehab appearances, Baker said.
“Usually one’s not enough,” Baker said. “You’ve got to do a day in between. You’ve got to do back-to-back (appearances). We’ll see how he comes out of this.”
Division play: The Reds went 1-5 against the Cardinals and Pirates in their first two National League Central Division series of the season, making this series against the Cubs more important.
The Reds were 49-30 against the Central last season.
“It’s only been two series,” Baker said. “In the last few years, we’ve been very good against our division. It’s no big deal. We know what we have to do. It’s kind of premature to worry about that right now.”
Homestand: Entering Monday’s game, the Reds were 6-1 on the homestand with three more to play against the Cubs. In 10-game home stands against three teams, they have never done better than 8-2. They’ve accomplished that three times (1912, 1966 and 2012).