'Itching' to play, shortstop Cozart back in lineup

'Itching' to play, shortstop Cozart back in lineup

'Itching' to play, shortstop Cozart back in lineup
CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart returned to the starting lineup Friday after missing 14 games with a strained left oblique muscle.

Cozart, who had been out of action since Sept. 4, said he was hitting "aggressively" the past three days and felt good after his batting-practice sessions.

"I'm itching to play and I told [acting manager Chris Speier] I feel good," Cozart said. "He came and watched me hit [Thursday] in the cage. He saw me letting it loose, then taking a little break and then hitting again and everything felt good. I'm excited."

Speier said Cozart felt good enough to play Thursday, but with a safe cushion in the National League Central, he wanted to give the rookie shortstop an extra day for precaution.

"He's been after me about, 'When am I going to get out there? When am I going to play?'" Speier said. "I got the OK from doc that he was ready. I know he was ready [Thursday] and he said, 'If you need me, I'm available.' But I wanted to give him one more day and let him get back here to the home turf. We'll watch him, monitor him and make sure he's OK."

Without the luxury of a rehab stint, Cozart is using the final stretch of the season to get back to game speed as the Reds approach the playoffs.

"For me to get back in there and get my feet wet is important," Cozart said. "I'm using these next 13 games or so to get ready for the postseason. Not so much on results, but just getting back in the swing of things."