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Cozart quite the versatile player with Angels

Veteran shortstop making transition to third base for '18
MLB.com @mi_guardado

TEMPE, Ariz. -- With Andrelton Simmons nursing a strained shoulder, Zack Cozart made his first start of the spring at shortstop for the Angels in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Rangers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

It was familiar territory for Cozart, who exclusively played shortstop for his first seven years in the Majors, but he is now transitioning to third base after signing a three-year, $38 million contract in the offseason. After making an error in the first inning, Cozart made a nice diving play to rob Robinson Chirinos of a hit in the fifth.

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- With Andrelton Simmons nursing a strained shoulder, Zack Cozart made his first start of the spring at shortstop for the Angels in Sunday's 4-3 win over the Rangers at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

It was familiar territory for Cozart, who exclusively played shortstop for his first seven years in the Majors, but he is now transitioning to third base after signing a three-year, $38 million contract in the offseason. After making an error in the first inning, Cozart made a nice diving play to rob Robinson Chirinos of a hit in the fifth.

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Spring Training info

"It's going to be weird," Cozart said prior to the game. "I've tried to focus so much on third base. Shortstop is going to be easy for me, but that's kind of the plan. When Sim has to have a couple days or whatever, put me in to play short. That's the whole idea. It'll be nice to be back at my stomping grounds."

The Angels expect Simmons to be ready for Opening Day, so Cozart's return to shortstop will likely be brief. His priority this spring is still to become more comfortable at third base, a position he had never played professionally before joining the Angels. Cozart, who has now started seven Cactus League games at third, said he feels the transition has been going well so far.

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"It's been pretty close to what I expected," Cozart said. "I knew that the whole positioning aspect of everything was going to be tough at the beginning ... There's a learning curve, but I feel more and more every day I'm getting comfortable. The ball is slowing down for me, the throw to first seems easier. I'm getting there."

Cozart is projected to log most of his starts at third base this season, but he will also be the backup middle infielder and has begun taking ground balls at second base. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Cozart will see some game action at second before the end of spring.

"I guess I'm playing everywhere," Cozart said. "Not outfield yet, hopefully."

Cozart's versatility will be key for the Angels, who are expected to carry 13 pitchers on their Opening Day roster and will thus be limited to a three-man bench. Catcher Rene Rivera and outfielder Chris Young are projected to fill two of the reserve slots, but the final bench job remains open.

Given Cozart's inexperience at second base -- he hasn't played there since 2009 in the low Minors -- the Angels could fill out their bench with another infielder who can handle second, such as Kaleb Cowart, Colin Walsh, Jose Miguel Fernandez or Nolan Fontana, who is currently sidelined with right shoulder inflammation. Cowart and Fontana are on the 40-man roster, while Walsh and Fernandez are in camp as non-roster invitees.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart