Zack Cozart cleared for baseball activities following Tommy John surgery

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Zack Cozart was in attendance at Redsfest yesterday and confirmed to Mark Sheldon of MLB.com that he was cleared to resume full baseball activities beginning Monday. Cozart suffered a season-ending injury to his left (non-throwing) elbow in mid-July and eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in August.

“It’s been rehab for three months ever since the season ended,” Cozart said. “Every day, just elbow, elbow, elbow. Finally I get to do baseball — swinging, fielding, throwing. I’m basically full go. It’s a process.”

The injury occurred at an unfortunate time for Cozart, who took over the starting shortstop job from the underwhelming combo of Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria in early-July and batted .324 (12-for-37) with two homers and three RBI over his first 11 major league games. The good news is that the 26-year-old is expected to be 100 percent in time for spring training.

While Cozart is projected to be the starting shortstop next season, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said today that he is in the process of looking for a quality backup. Sheldon hears that the club was interested in utility man Ramon Santiago before he re-signed with the Tigers earlier this week.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.