TEMPE, Ariz. -- After undergoing surgery in late June to repair a torn left labrum in his left shoulder that required nine anchors to be inserted to keep everything in place, Zack Cozart is healthy and looking for a bounce-back season with the Angels.Cozart said he initially suffered the injury
TEMPE, Ariz. -- After undergoing surgery in late June to repair a torn left labrum in his left shoulder that required nine anchors to be inserted to keep everything in place, Zack Cozart is healthy and looking for a bounce-back season with the Angels.
Cozart said he initially suffered the injury all the way back in 2008, but he played through it until he reinjured it on a sliding stop while playing shortstop on June 13 in Seattle. Cozart initially thought he could avoid surgery, but Dr. Neal ElAttrache immediately knew that Cozart needed an operation and recommended having it done quickly to be ready for this Spring Training.
"It just got to the point where I subluxed it I can't even count how many times," Cozart said. "It just kept getting looser and looser. It honestly wasn't a pain thing for me. Basically, I didn't have a labrum. That's why it was slipping out, there was nothing there to hold it in. My muscles were the only thing that was keeping it semi-there. The whole reason for the surgery is to tighten it up, in my case."
Cozart noted that most labrum surgeries require two to four anchors, but his was a more extreme case, as he was told it was similar to the operation NFL quarterback Drew Brees underwent in 2006. But Cozart's recovery has been smoother because it's his non-throwing shoulder and it hasn't affected his ability to swing the bat.
"I've been swinging for about two months," Cozart said. "I started in early December doing like dry swing stuff. I was like four or five months out at that point. It took about a month to get over that mental hump of just letting it loose, but I was taking videos and sending them to our hitting guys and physical therapy guys. Everything's gone smooth, knock on wood, so I'm excited about it."
Cozart shouldn't have any restrictions this camp, but he understands the club will be cautious with him early in the spring. He's been hitting and fielding without any issues so far and believes he's fully recovered from the surgery.
"I feel that if today was Opening Day, I'd be in the lineup," Cozart said. "My shoulder feels great. It's just a matter of, I don't know if they'll let me play in these first couple spring games because I have so much time, but honestly there's no limitations. I'm doing normal hitting out there, taking my ground balls, doing everything just to get ready for games."
Cozart, though, doesn't know what position he'll play on Opening Day, as it could be at third base or second base, depending on how infield competitions go this spring between second baseman David Fletcher and third baseman Taylor Ward with second-base prospect Luis Rengifo and veteran Tommy La Stella also in the mix.
The Angels have also reportedly had talks with free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas, which could also come into play. So Cozart will work at second, short and third this spring to be ready for whatever the club needs.
"I played short since I was six and nothing else until last year," Cozart said. "I'm excited to get in here and work with [infield coach Mike] Gallego here at third, our infield guy, and second, too. Last year, going through it, I'm not going to be surprised by anything.
Cozart, 33, is also excited about proving he's more like the hitter he was in 2017, when he batted .297/.385/.548 with 24 homers and 24 doubles in 122 games with the Reds before signing a three-year, $38 million deal with the Angels prior to last season. He hit .219/.296/.362 with five homers and 13 doubles in 58 games with the Angels before suffering the injury, but said hitting coaches Shawn Wooten and Jeremy Reed have already helped him find his old swing.
"Not only did I get hurt, but I wasn't playing like I wanted to," Cozart said. "We've already looked at what I was doing last year and compared it with 2017. It's like the most simple thing, which is a good thing, but it was a biomechanical issue that I had. The past two days I've been hitting like I did in '17."
Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.