CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart didn't connect with a huge hit in Wednesday's 1-0 win over the Cardinals. Yet, Cozart's contributions -- two nice defensive plays and a sacrifice bunt to set up Chris Heisey's walk-off RBI single -- proved highly essential for the victory.
The Reds' value what Cozart brings to their team on a daily basis.
"I think we've gotten away from appreciating what an everyday shortstop looks like," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "It doesn't have to look like [Derek] Jeter and A-Rod and [Nomar] Garciaparra, and especially guys like A-Rod that hit home runs. What you really want is solid defense and a good professional hitter that can do the things that need to be done like yesterday."
In the top of the eighth inning of a scoreless game with Matt Carpenter batting for St. Louis, a runner on second base and two out, there was a soft liner to shallow center field that looked likely to be a bloop RBI single.
"I thought it was going to be a back-breaker," Price said.
Instead, Cozart ran back and made a spectacular diving catch to save a run.
"I've never had a walk-off hit, but that was my walk-off defensive play right there. I like making plays like that," said Cozart, who also made a nice running catch in the outfield to prevent an Allen Craig hit in the second inning.
In the bottom of the ninth with runners on first and second, Cozart perfectly executed a sacrifice bunt to the left side to advance the runners. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, Heisey delivered the game-winning pinch-hit single.
"I love leaving the park helping the team win in any fashion," Cozart said. "To make that play and get the sac bunt down off a tough [Carlos] Martinez throwing that hard and sinking it, it was pretty cool."
Cozart led the National League with 10 sacrifice bunts last season and batted .254 in 151 games after a slow start. Price likes that Cozart can do a lot of little things -- steal a base, hit to the opposite field or drop a bunt when needed. Then, of course, there is his glove.
"More important than anything is to be really solid up the middle with his defense," Price said. "To me, that shows up every day with Zack and could be very easily underappreciated. We appreciate what he does."
Hamilton's speed allows shallow play in center
CINCINNATI -- Through the first two games of the regular season, Reds rookie Billy Hamilton has been positioning himself to be in shallow center field more often than predecessor Shin-Soo Choo.
With his speed, Hamilton can make catches running toward the wall look routine. But he could not catch up to Kolten Wong's eighth-inning double on Wednesday.
"We encourage him to play a bit more shallow," Reds manager Bryan Price said on Thursday. "That ball Wong hit was going to go over his head, unless he is playing way back there by the warning track. He hit the ball real hard, it's a line drive. There's just no way to make up ground on that ball. He's going to take away lot of the balls in front of him. He's going to throw more guys out or have the chance to. He's got a good arm. He goes back extremely well for a young guy that hasn't been in center field a long time."
It helps Hamilton that Great American Ball Park lacks an expansive outfield -- especially up the middle.
"When we get to Colorado, we'll see exactly what we have," Price said.
Ludwick out of lineup, but left wrist a non-issue
CINCINNATI -- Reds left fielder Ryan Ludwick was not in the Thursday starting lineup vs. the Cardinals. It had nothing to do with Ludwick being hit on the left wrist by a Michael Wacha fastball in the fourth inning of Wednesday's 1-0 Reds win.
Chris Heisey, who provided the game-winning hit in the ninth, started in left field for Ludwick.
"He's fine. It's a non-issue," Price said of Ludwick. "We're just trying to keep some of these other guys fresh. [Heisey] had a terrific spring. This was the intention regardless of yesterday's game."
Heisey batted .310 with a team-leading six home runs and 12 RBIs during Spring Training. He was tied for the Major League lead in spring homers.