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Mechanical tweak pays off for Cozart in first AB

Righty hitter adjusted hand placement in stance
MLB.com @m_sheldon

PHOENIX -- Three days ago, on the heels of watching Indians stars Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion bat against his team, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart decided to try a change to how he set himself to hit.

Instead of starting with his hands up by his face while holding the bat Wednesday in his spring debut vs. the Brewers, Cozart kept them relaxed. His bat was rested on his shoulder to start.

PHOENIX -- Three days ago, on the heels of watching Indians stars Francisco Lindor and Edwin Encarnacion bat against his team, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart decided to try a change to how he set himself to hit.

Instead of starting with his hands up by his face while holding the bat Wednesday in his spring debut vs. the Brewers, Cozart kept them relaxed. His bat was rested on his shoulder to start.

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On the second pitch of his first at-bat of the day, Cozart slugged a 1-0 pitch for a home run to left field against Chase Anderson.

"I was a little nervous about that because I hadn't tried it in a game other than hitting with it a bit in Spring Training," Cozart said after he went 1-for-3 in the Reds' 3-2 loss to Milwaukee. "Obviously, it felt pretty good. I'm seeing the ball well. When you get out there, timing is everything."

Video: CIN@MIL: Cozart hits a solo shot to left field

Cozart's debut was held back out of maximum precaution after he missed most of the final month of the 2016 season with tendinitis in his surgically reconstructed right knee.

There have been no problems with the knee since Cozart reported to camp, and none popped up in his first game action.

"I felt pretty good out there, honestly," he said. "You have to get into baseball shape, and my legs started getting heavy in the fourth inning. I'm not ready for nine [innings], but I can play four or five. I felt way better than I did at this point last year going out there. Last year, I was so worried about the knee and how everything was going to go. This time, I didn't even think about the knee at all. I was just playing. I don't have a brace on or anything. It was good to get back out there."

There was only one downside to the day.

"I didn't get any balls at shortstop, which I hate," Cozart said.

As for the batting adjustment, no one suggested Cozart give it a try. He followed the examples of the Cleveland players, as well as Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina, who also rests his bat on his shoulder before getting into his swing. He also talked to hitting coaches Don Long and Tony Jaramillo about it.

Video: Cozart talks about his improved offense, Peraza

"Anytime I've gone through ruts or whatever, it's always me wondering about my rhythm and my hand position and stuff like that," Cozart said. "I was thinking randomly one day, 'Well, why would I not want to take that out of the equation?' If you look at my videos from today, I'm getting to the exact same launch position that I was getting to [before]. I'm just relaxed and then getting there. When your hands are up, you could be more tense.

"Of course, three or four months out of the year last year, I felt great and I wasn't worried about it. But the second I felt bad, I started trying to figure this out again and it kind of boggles my mind. It takes it out of the equation. I just rest it here, and then bam, I'm there. So far, so good, I guess."

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Cincinnati Reds, Zack Cozart