Zack Cozart swore that he would stay aggressive at the plate, even while batting leadoff. He wanted nothing to do with taking pitches to get a good feel for the opposing pitcher’s stuff.
Cozart’s now batting second, behind speedster Billy Hamilton, but he’s staying aggressive – and he wasted no time making it pay off against Arizona on Friday, the first night of the new lineup look. After Hamilton walked with two outs, nobody on and Cincinnati leading, 5-2, in the eighth inning, Cozart lashed a double into the left field corner. Hamilton scored easily from first base, a scenario eerily similar to one of the possibilities mentioned by manager Bryan Price in his pre-game explanation for making the move.
“Yeah, he was like, ‘It’s all me,’” Cozart said with a smile before Saturday’s second game of the three-game series. “When you’re hitting leadoff, you don’t get a lot of chances to drive people in. This is definitely going to let me have more opportunities. It’s going to give Joey (Votto) more opportunities. It’s going to give Jay (Bruce) more opportunities. It’s going to give everybody more opportunities.
“It makes us more dynamic, no doubt about it.”
Cozart will take a hittable pitch if he sees that Hamilton’s gotten a good jump on a stolen base attempt, the shortstop said. Otherwise, he expects to keep the same approach that had him hitting a solid .262 with 15 home runs – tying his single-season career high – and 41 runs batted in over 87 games in his first season since undergoing season-ending surgery last June to repair the damage of a catastrophic knee injury. He went into Saturday’s game on pace to finish with 69 RBIs, which would be a career high.
Cozart extended his current hitting streak to five games with his double. He leads the team with 23 doubles and 23 multi-hit games.
“I’m not a leadoff hitter,” he said. “I was put in that role the last day of spring training. It was kind of a surprise, but I told myself that I’m not changing my approach.”
Waiting on Homer: Right-handed pitcher Tim Adelman, who’s been on the disabled list since May 20 with a strained left oblique, threw 75 pitches over five innings during his third rehab start with Triple-A Louisville on Thursday. The next step for Adelman remains undetermined, Price said on Saturday.
“He’s pitching again at some point in time,” Price said. “When and where, I can’t tell you. A lot is hinging on if Homer is ready.”
Homer, of course, is right-hander Homer Bailey, who is scheduled to make his sixth rehab start on Monday as he tries to come back from his May 2015 Tommy John surgery.
What ifs: Right fielder Jay Bruce has been the Reds player most prominently mentioned in trade rumors with the July 31 non-waiver deadline approaching, but even though such a deal would created a seismic change in the look of his team, Price was trying to not give it too much thought.
“I don’t get online a great deal,” he said. “I know there are rumors and names being bantered about, but I’ve heard nothing to suggest that anything is imminent. Last year, I had a gut feeling about (right-handed pitchers) Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake. I don’t have that this year.”
That extends to not pondering possible scenarios if a player such as Bruce or Cozart are traded. Price has so much reality to worry about that he doesn’t have the time to waste on changes that might happen.
“I love Jay,” Price said. “I’d love for him to be here for a long time, but I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what ifs.”