CINCINNATI -- Reds shortstop Zack Cozart knew he didn't have to look over his shoulder when he was struggling at the plate to start the season. But starting out 0-for-22 like he did, it was still difficult to live through. Manager Bryan Price told Cozart during the last road trip in New York he had the club's confidence.
"Even though I know as a player that it's my job, it's still nice to hear somebody -- your manager -- tell you, 'We're not worried about it.' That gave me some confidence," Cozart said on Monday.
Cozart came into Monday 3-for-6 over his last two games. He reached safely three times in five plate appearances in Sunday's 12-4 win over the Rays, which included a two-run ground-rule double to right field.
"The past couple of days, I've had better at-bats, obviously," Cozart said. "I knew I was going to come out of it. I go through something like this every year. It just so happened to be magnified going 0-for- to start the year. I'm definitely feeling better."
"There's just no way to work your way out of a slump unless you go out there and play and face the pitching and make your adjustments in competition," Price said. "He's our shortstop. He was able to right his own ship. Hopefully this is a sign of a really good consistent at-bats moving forward."
Chapman 'outstanding' in return to mound
CINCINNATI -- Reds closer Aroldis Chapman has continued to make a rapid recovery in the nearly one month since he was struck in the face by a line drive during Spring Training. The latest milestone came on Monday, when Chapman pitched off of a bullpen mound for the first time.
Chapman threw 25 pitches in the bullpen at Great American Ball Park with general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Bryan Price among those watching.
"He threw the ball outstanding," Price said. "He threw all of his pitches, including his slider. He was sharp, extremely enthusiastic and happy to be out there, as we all were. It was exciting."
Now he has to do it again, and again. The Reds are not planning on rushing Chapman back to face hitters. There will be a few more bullpen sessions to come before he can progress forward.
"It was an obvious and essential step to the next thing, which will be live batting practice and game situations," Price said. "I think facing batters will be the biggest hurdle for him initially, but we haven't seen any reason to feel like he's anything other than optimistic about getting back on the mound and facing hitters."
Price said that Chapman would be given the option to pitch behind a screen the first time when he eventually does face hitters. Shortly after he was injured by a Salvador Perez liner vs. the Royals, Chapman underwent surgery and had a metal plate inserted to stabilize fractures above the left eye and nose. Before he can be exposed to contact, the medical staff wants to make sure he has fully healed.
There is no timetable for when he might face hitters or perform fielding drills.
"I will do whatever they decide to do with me," Chapman said via translator Tomas Vera. "I have to wait for what the doctor's decision is, what Bryan's decision is. I feel physically, mentally and my arm feels really well right now."
Schumaker progressing; Marshall near return
CINCINNATI -- On the disabled list with a dislocated left shoulder, utility player Skip Schumaker made some progress on Monday, when he was able to do some throwing and hit off of a tee.
"We're optimistic that, in relatively short order, he'll be able to get into game action," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Schumaker, who was injured during a March 21 diving catch attempt, throws right-handed but had discomfort in his left shoulder in earlier attempts to throw. That is no longer an issue.
"That left arm has to come up. It has to establish height and closure to stabilize and really allow him to extend and throw through the ball," Price said. "It's a very important piece of the throwing mechanics, even though he's a right-handed thrower. That used to hinder him."
Another player on the DL, lefty reliever Sean Marshall, is also advancing his efforts to return. Marshall, who missed all of Spring Training because of a sore left shoulder, threw one inning and 19 pitches on Saturday at extended spring in Arizona.
Marshall is slated to begin a rehab assignment on Tuesday at Triple-A Louisville and pitch an inning in back-to-back games. There is a chance he could be activated before the end of the week.
"We certainly don't want to put the cart in front of the horse here. We want him to get through these outings," Price said. "Going back to back for the first time is a huge step in the right direction."
Last season, the Reds and Pirates hit batters with pitches 28 times -- the most between two teams in the Majors. There was a perception that bad blood existed between the two division rivals, but Price did not expect any carryover into this season.
"We're very much like Pittsburgh in that we like to establish the inside part of the plate and use both sides of the plate," Price said. "We both hit a number of guys against all opponents with very little intent to hit, but it happens. It's the start of a new season. I'm hoping they certainly don't go into it thinking there is something they have to establish other than pitching their game. We intend to pitch our game. I don't think there is any reason to go into this to think there's animosity, but we'll see."