By Steve Hurt/Special Contributor
ARLINGTON, Texas – The halfway point of the 2013 season came and went on Saturday for Zack Cozart as his Cincinnati Reds beat the Texas Rangers in extra innings.
Through his 74 games this season, the Ole Miss product is hitting .244 with 7 HR and 31 RBI with seven errors in 294 chances as the Reds’ starting shortstop.
But he’s made big strides after a slow start. He hit just .208 in April but rebounded to hit .278 in May and .248 in June, possibly setting himself up for a big second half.
“I started off slow and things the past two months have gotten better. When you’re hitting below .200, you can’t really go anywhere but up. So I’ve been feeling better for a couple months,” Cozart said.
His slow start was a sharp departure from how he began last season, his first full year in the majors, when he hit .271 in April before dipping to .208 in May but surged to hit .274 in June.
Asked if he knew why he started this season so slowly, he admits he’s at a loss. “It’s just baseball. Some guys start out hot. Some guys start out slow. I just happened to start out slow,” Cozart said.
The ex-Rebel made his big-league debut on July 7, 2011 and the now 27-year-old infielder has been playing for Reds manager Dusty Baker, who has been to the playoffs five times as a manager, ever since. And he’s clearly a big fan of Cozart.
“He brings steadiness to the club and he shows signs of really getting it together offensively,” Baker said. “Just trying to get him more consistent and aggressive, but he’s very steady, very even keeled. He wants it and he’s a good student.”
pride in his defense
If there’s one thing this former Rebels regular takes pride in, it’s defense. Last season, he finished with 14 errors and was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove at short.
“That’s what I pride my game on. Hitting’s going to come and go all year for everybody. But defense can always be there and that’s why I pride myself on it because if pitchers are happy, we’re probably winning games,” Cozart said. “To be a finalist was obviously pretty cool for sure. That’s one of the main awards. If there’s any individual award I want to win it’s a Gold Glove.”
Steve Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.