During Cozart’s two-week absence caused by a neck strain, the Angels used infielders Stella and Fletcher almost daily. La Stella and Fletcher combined for 16 hits in 55 at-bats, two home runs, 14 RBIs and seven walks. Both continued to tap into unanticipated power.
Now the Angels must strike a balance between playing hot hands and allowing Cozart, who had only seven hits in his first 23 games of the season, to regain form.
“It is a little difficult because you want him to get back to the Zack Cozart that he was,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “but we still have to win games.”
For as long as he has been with the Angels, Cozart has struggled to find a groove at the plate. He was batting .219 with a .296 on-base percentage as the Angels’ everyday third baseman when he sustained a season-ending shoulder injury last June. Now in the second season of a three-year, $38 million contract, Cozart has a .132 average and .169 OBP.
The Angels are encouraged by how Cozart hits the ball when he makes contact — he is hitting the ball slightly harder and at a higher angle than in previous years, according to MLB’s Baseball Savant database — but Ausmus has said performance will dictate playing time.