Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 3/12/12
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MESA, Ariz. Even though Zack Cozart is a 26-year-old rookie scheduled to play his first full season, Cincinnati Reds Manager Dusty Baker expects him to show the leadership of a drill sergeant, expects him to be the captain of the infield. The shortstop position demands it. To achieve that, Cozart is getting both ears filled, but the words come from two Hall of Famers and former Reds, Joe Morgan and Barry Larkin. Cozart says he listens and he absorbs. "I've asked Joe Morgan to talk to him about some things and I've asked Barry Larkin to talk to him about playing shortstop and being a leader," said Baker. During his nearly two decades as a shortstop for the Reds, Larkin was the epitome of leadership on the field, in the clubhouse, on the team bus, at the breakfast table on the road. Larkin talked, everybody listened, then they unequivocally did what he told them. "I want Larkin to tell him what leadership entails," said Baker. "Larkin was in the same boat at one time because he came aboard with the Reds when they had a lot of veterans and he was expected to be a leader at a young age." Why Cozart? Mostly because the shortstop is expected to be the on-the-field leader, the director of traffic, the man in charge. "Rookies sometimes are a little reluctant to take that job, but a shortstop is expected to take that job," Baker added. "I don't care if you are 15 or 51, if you are a shortstop you are expected to take charge, bring some energy, whether you are a rookie or not." Jim Maloney was a star pitcher for the Reds in the late 1960s when rookie catcher Johnny Bench arrived and Maloney told Baker, "Bench was 19 years old and he took charge. This is what is required of a catcher and a shortstop take charge guys." Baker said it is increasingly important with the Reds because of the personalities who will surround Cozart in the infield. They all wear Gold Gloves Scott Rolen at third base, Joey Votto at first base and Brandon Phillips at second base. "Rolen and Votto are relatively quiet guys," said Baker. "Phillips is not quiet, not by a long shot, but he can get introverted, too. Hard to believe, but it is the truth." Baker said he expressed his desires to Cozart when he came up from the minors for the first time in his career last mid-season, knowing that a player needs a certain comfort level to be a leader, "But he has my blessing and my backing, which is what counts." Cozart is eager, ready, willing and hoping he is able to provide what his manager wants. "It's important, playing up the middle, to be a leader," said the 6-0, 194-pound native of Memphis. "It's a little weird for me, being a rookie and all, especially when I have Gold Glove all around me and veteran pitchers on the mound. "It goes with another rookie, Devin Mesoraco, being a catcher, we have to lead by example," Cozart added. "We have to show the guys that they can trust us, that we are going to be at the right spot on every play and do the right things. "The shortstop is involved in every play and that's why I like it," he added. "No matter where the ball goes, you follow it. And that's the fun part of shortstop, a big part of my game. I'm looking forward to it. I know I'm a rookie, but I take it as a challenge." Morgan talked to Cozart Monday morning about batting second in the order and stealing bases. Larkin approached him recently and said, "I'm here for you, whatever you need, whenever you want." Cozart is not scheduled to play Tuesday when the Reds are in Surprise, Ariz. to play Kansas City, so he plans some intense schooling from both Larkin and Morgan. "I love picking their brains, not so much for physical things, but to pick up things they learned during their careers," said Cozart. Cozart was in Mesa Monday playing shortstop as the Reds played the Chicago Cubs, taking a .357 average into the game. He grounded into a double play in the first inning, but banged a two-run double his second time at-bat.
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