MILWAUKEE -- The Cincinnati Reds kept seeing better and better numbers from shortstop Zack Cozart in the minor leagues. They decided they couldn't hold the highly touted prospect back any longer.
The Reds called up Cozart and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup on Thursday night for the opener of a four-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers.
"We tried to keep him there as long as we could to get ready and you don't really know if a guy's ready until he gets here for an extended period of time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's been playing well down there."
Cozart is considered Cincinnati's best infield prospect and hit .310 with seven homers, 32 RBIs and nine steals in 77 games with Triple-A Louisville. He was named an International League All-Star after hitting .337 in May and .377 in June.
"We like Cozart. He brings some speed, some power, we haven't seen him much other than spring training and following his numbers, but big time we like what we saw," said Baker. "Hopefully, he can give us a boost."
"Janish put quite a bit of pressure on himself and his confidence was waning some, so he needed to go down and -- more than anything -- get his confidence together. Confidence is a big part of this game," Baker said. "He's definitely a quality shortstop."
The Reds also sent right-hander Edinson Volquez down to Louisville to work on his lack of command. Volquez continues to struggle with a 5-4 record, a 5.93 ERA and 55 walks this season, second highest in the NL.
"That's really the only issue -- command and pace of the game, too, which goes back to command, trying to be deliberate and focus every pitch," the manager said. "He certainly has the stuff. We need him to get himself back together. He's getting there."
Reliever Carlos Fisher took Volquez's place to help bridge a gap in the bullpen after Cincinnati won 9-8 in 13 innings at St. Louis on Wednesday.
With Volquez demoted, the most likely candidate to replace him in the rotation Sunday for the final game before the break will be left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2003 and made two All-Star Games before struggling with the Florida Marlins, Detroit Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Willis last pitched in the majors last July and signed with the Reds in the offseason. He's 5-2 with a 2.63 ERA in 13 starts for Louisville.