By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Zack Cozart states it as clearly and succinctly as he possibly can about his situation for next season. He becomes a free agent after this season if the Cincinnati Reds don’t re-sign him and so far the front office is walking around Cozart as if they have duct tape over their mouths.
Cozart is in an extremely positive position. He is in the midst of a break-through career-best season, making him a valuable piece of baseball property.
As he said after hitting two solo home runs Friday night as the Cincinnati Reds bagged the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-2, “There is no conversation.”
The major clue to him is that the Reds have not talked to him or to his agent about a contract for next season.
“No, there is no conversation,” said Cozart after hitting his 21st and 22nd home run. “I’m in a pretty good spot (as a free agent). I want to win. I’m 32 and I want to play a long time, but I want to win.”
OBVIOUSLY HE DOESN’T believe it will happen soon enough in Cincinnati and said, “That will factor in to what happens this off-season. I love Cincinnati, my family does, too. I would love to stay here but there is no conversation. We’re two weeks from the end of the year and I just want to stay healthy, finish strong and see what happens.”
Although manager Bryan Price would donate a kidney to keep Cozart in Cincinnati, he knows the financial realities, even though Price is not involved in contractual discussions.
“I love Zack and we all do here,” said Price. “I understand his value. In the same respect, there are mitigating factors. He is a free agent for the first time. And there are some limitations here as to what we can do.
“There may be a more competitive offer awaiting him somewhere else,” Price added. “I’m not in the middle of it, so I don’t have to get involved. But I do know he is very well thought of here and we’d all like to see him back playing shortstop here. But the realism of getting that done is yet to be known. He has a chance to take advantage of leveraging his success.”
MEANWHILE, BACK ON THE FIELD, It is the Battle for the Bottom this weekend in Great American Ball Park with the last place Reds trying to overtake the fourth place Pittsburgh Pirates.
The opening salvo Friday night was won by the Reds, who should have been yelling “Fore.” Or was that “Four?”
The Reds hit four solo home runs in the first five innings off Pirates starter Chad Kuhl, two by Cozart for enough runs to post a 4-2 victory.
While the Reds were playing Clear The Wall, starting pitcher Homer Bailey held the Pirates to one run and five hits over 5 2/3 innings with two walks and seven strikeouts.
So the Reds chopped one game off their deficit to the Pirates and are four games behind with two games left against Pittsburgh and 14 left in th season.
—Joey Votto started the Bombs Away Night for the Reds with a two-out, first-pitch home run to right field in the first inning, his 35th home run.
—Cozart hit the next two, a one-out bases-empty blast to left field in the third and a leadoff rip to left field in the fifth, home runs number 21 and 22 for the Reds shortstop. He has had five multi-homer games in his career, three this season.
—Scott Schebler hit the fourth solo home run with two outs in the fifth, a drive over the right field wall, his 27th home run.
BAILEY KNEW IT WOULD BE a long, tough night after Pittsburgh’s first batter of the night. It took Bailey 14 pitches to get rid of Frazier, finally getting him on a fly to right.
The only run off Bailey came in the third when he gave up a leadoff double to catcher Elias Diaz, a single to pitcher Chad Kuhl, a walk that loaded the bases to Frazier and a sacrifice fly to Jordan Luplow.
With two runners still on base, Bailey retired Andrew McCutchen on a first-pitch ground ball to first baseman Joey Votto.
Bailey retired the first two in the sixth then ran into game-ending trouble for him. He walked Josh Bell, Dave Freese doubled for his 900th career hit and Bailey hit Gregory Polanco to fill the bases.
PRICE BROUGHT IN MICHAEL Lorenzen to face Diaz and he swung at the first pitch and grounded out to first baseman Votto to end that threat.
Lorenzen encountered eighth-inning misery, putting two on with one out, and it was Raisel Iglesias time. He struck out David Freese and struck out to douse the threat.
He gave up a walk and a two-out triple to Adam Frazier for a run. Then he retired Jordan Luplow on a line drive to left.
That gave Iglesias his 27th save in 28 opportunities, his 15th straight without blowing one and his 12th save this year of more than one inning, most in the majors.