|Dylan Cozens, image- Tug Haines|
"My first throw I went to make from right field I went to throw it and I was trying to throw it pretty hard, and I was trying to show off a little bit, like maybe show off the arm, and it just like grabbed on me and tightened up real bad," Cozens confessed in a phone interview on Friday. "And then, I overthrew the guy a little bit and they made me do another throw and I went to throw that one and it hurt pretty bad and I was like, 'I'm shutting it down.'"
Medical examinations, including an MRI and x-rays, followed for the 21-year-old, who wrapped up his 2015 regular season with the Double-A Reading Fightins. The diagnosis was a forearm strain and swelling of the UCL in his left arm.
Initially, it was unclear how much time Cozens would miss, so he flew out to Arizona to join six other Phillies minor leaguers as members of the Glendale Desert Dogs for the month-long AFL schedule. After further evaluation, the imposing six-foot-six 235-pounder was ordered to return to Clearwater for rehab work with the organization's training staff.
The missed opportunity doesn't have Cozens feeling down, as he takes it as a lesson learned and could possibly still play this off-season with a team in Puerto Rico when the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League gets underway.
Until the arm issue came about, it had been a solid year for the lefty batting former two-sport high school standout. Cozens, who also had promise on the football field, was selected by the Phillies in the second round of the 2012 draft.
After three full years directing his attention strictly toward baseball, Cozens feels that he's made considerable progress toward his ultimate goal.
"I didn't know the game at all when I was drafted. I was just out there playing basically on raw talent. I mean, I've learned so much as far as playing the game every day and each year going through seasons and stuff, you learn different things. I just definitely see myself as, each year, continuing to get better and better," Cozens stated.
This year, the Arizona native began his campaign with the first and second-half division champion Class A Advanced Clearwater Threshers in the Florida State League, where he posted a .282 average with five homers, 46 RBI and 18 stolen bases in 96 games. Following a late-season promotion, Cozens would sport a .350 average with three home runs, nine RBI and two steals in 11 regular season games before heading into the playoffs with Reading in the Eastern League.
His personal progress and playing for two post-season bound clubs made the year more enjoyable for the youngster.
"It was definitely one of my best years so far as a Phillie," Cozens said. "I had a ton of fun. Being able to be a part of two playoff teams was awesome. I had great teammates and had a bunch of fun."
Cozens, who was ranked by Phillies Nation this year as the Phils' number nine prospect, along with some of those teammates he mentioned make up a core group of prospects that the Phillies hope will make their current rebuild a successful one.
"A lot of us feel like we're going to be the guys in the next year or so, so we're just trying to be good teammates to one another and get closer and closer and take the core group from each team and, hopefully, that'll be the big league product in the future and you've got such a talented group of young players and we're gonna go up there and king of try to do what the Cubs did this year, which is just a bunch of young guys taking over and maybe go farther than they did."
Other AFL notes-
One day prior to flying to Australia to begin playing in an off-season league there, outfielder Aaron Brown, who was a teammates of Cozens with Clearwater this year, was tapped to replace him with Glendale for the remainder of the AFL season.
The lefty batting Brown, who was the Phils' third round pick last year out of Pepperdine, is 4-for-11 (.364 average) in his first three games