Before the Phillies drafted Dylan Cozens in 2012, and before the June night in Chicago six years later when he blasted his only major league home run, there was the opportunity to play football.
At long last, he is going to give it a try.
Cozens, a former Phillies prospect who began the season with the Milwaukee Brewers’ triple-A club in Nashville, Tenn., announced Tuesday on social media that he’s stepping away from baseball “to chase my dream of playing in the NFL.” The 27-year-old outfielder played in 27 major league games, all with the Phillies, and batted .154 with two doubles, one homer, two RBIs, a .549 OPS, and 24 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances.
At 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, Cozens always looked more like a linebacker. He has football bloodlines, too. His father, Randy, was drafted by the Denver Broncos in 1976 but didn’t play because of a pair of knee surgeries.
Cozens was a defensive end as a senior at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Ariz., and got recruited by several colleges before signing to play at the University of Arizona. But after being drafted by the Phillies in the second round, he signed for $659,800, and ditched football.
In the early days of the Phillies’ rebuilding effort, Cozens and Rhys Hoskins were pegged as future middle-of-the-order pieces. Then-general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., who congratulated Cozens on Twitter, labeled his power “extraordinary.” Cozens backed up that characterization by hitting 38 doubles and 40 homers and slugging .591 while batting .276 in 134 games at double-A Reading in 2016.
After struggling in triple A, Cozens was called up by the Phillies midway through the 2018 season. He went 6-for-38 (.158) with 24 strikeouts in 44 plate appearances. Cozens played one game for the Phillies in 2019 and was released in August of that season.
Cozens spent the rest of the 2019 season in the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He didn’t play in 2020, and this year batted .177 with two homers, a .673 OPS, and 43 strikeouts in 100 plate appearances for Nashville.
Moore, or less?
Aaron Nola is scheduled to start one game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Mets in New York. The Phillies haven’t decided on a starter for the other game, but the choices seemingly boil down to rookies Spencer Howard and Bailey Falter. The latter pitched Tuesday night in relief of Zack Wheeler.
Unless the Phillies give Matt Moore another chance.
Moore, who has been on the injured list since May 22 with lower back spasms, is scheduled for his sixth rehab start Thursday for triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies could push him back one day and have him face the Mets instead. Or else they could keep him on schedule and use him next Tuesday night, when they will need a spot starter for the series opener against the Miami Marlins at Citizens Bank Park.
Either way, Moore’s rehab assignment will expire Sunday. If he isn’t reinstated to the active roster by Monday, likely in a long-relief/insurance starter role, the Phillies would have to release him.
Moore, who signed as a free agent for $3 million in the offseason, has a 7.36 ERA in nine appearances (three starts). He has a 4.66 ERA, 22 strikeouts, and 11 walks in 19 1/3 innings in five triple-A starts.
Howard is the most recent occupant of the Phillies’ fifth-starter spot. He was skipped in the last turn through the rotation because the manager Joe Girardi decided to use recent days off to align Nola, Zach Eflin, and Wheeler for this weekend’s series against the Mets.
In four starts, Howard has a 4.05 ERA, 15 strikeouts, and 10 walks in 13 1/3 innings. He has had difficulty maintaining his velocity after the first few innings and hasn’t completed more than four innings or thrown more than 68 pitches.
Falter, a 6-foot-4 left-hander, has seen his stock rise within the organization. He has a 3.38 ERA in eight walk-free innings since getting recalled from triple A last week.
Didi Gregorius, sidelined since May 12 with swelling in his right elbow due to a rare condition known as pseudogout, will take batting practice and field grounders Wednesday. He could resume his minor league rehab assignment “shortly after that,” according to Girardi, who noted that the shortstop will have to play for several days before rejoining the Phillies because of the length of his absence. ... Second baseman Jean Segura (left groin strain) began running on a treadmill. ... Vince Velasquez (2-2, 4.44 ERA) is scheduled to start the series finale at 1 p.m. Wednesday against Nationals right-hander Erick Fedde (4-4, 3.33 ERA).