Having spent his entire career with Cincinnati, third baseman Zack Cozart said joining the Angels and changing leagues is like “playing a different sport.”
After seven seasons in the National League, he signed as a free agent in December while also agreeing to move to a foreign position, abandoning shortstop.
However, he is not completely unfamiliar with the Angels. He knows Garrett Richards well, in fact. Or, at least, Richards’ fastball.
In spring training a year ago, Richards hit Cozart with a pitch when the Angels and Reds met in an exhibition. The incident came immediately after Cozart noticed that Richards didn’t look particularly sharp warming up.
“He dotted me right in the back,” Cozart said. “I think the bruise is still there. I’m glad he’s on my team now. He’s hard enough to hit as it is. When he’s throwing at you, it’s even harder to hit him.”
So, last month when the Angels regulars took their first session of live batting practice, who do you think Cozart had to face? Richards, naturally.
“I was like, ‘Oh, yeah. Of course,’ ” Cozart said. “That was my official welcome to the Angels.”
Because of the reporters following Shohei Ohtani, most of the Angels have done more interviews this spring.
They certainly are doing more with Japanese journalists, the Angels learning how their answers sound in a language that’s foreign to them.
“I do kind of wonder,” pitcher Andrew Heaney said of hearing his words being interpreted. “I’m like, ‘Man, I really hope he’s not misquoting me on that.’ But there’s only so much you can control, right?”
The normal crowd in the Angels’ clubhouse Friday morning was smaller because most of the Japanese media were elsewhere in Arizona with Ohtani, who started in a “B” game against Milwaukee.
Whenever he goes, there is a pack not far behind chronicling his every step, more than 50 media members waiting to talk to Ohtani after his second start of the spring.
“You see that many cameras in one place, you know something’s going on,” pitcher Parker Bridwell said. “I’m just glad it’s not me in the spotlight. He’s a class act. He can handle what he has to handle, but it’s got to add some pressure.”
Told that Ohtani meets with reporters every day except on the days before he pitches, Bridwell looked surprised.
“That’d be a tough thing to do,” he said. “I’d have to take a class on talking or something.”
Richards was solid in his second spring start, holding the Chicago Cubs scoreless in three innings. He gave up two hits and a walk and struck out two.
Facing a lineup that featured hitters like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, the right-hander looked physically and mentally ready.
“You have to focus a little more,” Richards said. “You know you can’t miss over the plate. It just kind of sharpens everything up.”
Short hops: Ohtani’s next appearance in a game will come as a hitter, likely Sunday. … A sure sign it’s spring training: At one point Friday, the Angels had three players on the field each wearing No. 9.