The Lehigh Valley IronPigs stormed out of the dugout last week to meet Dylan Cozens at home plate after he smashed a walk-off homer. They doused him with a cooler of water, smacked his head and tugged at his jersey after Cozens rounded the bases.
A few days later, they celebrated again.
The slugging prospect has used the first three weeks of May to turn around his season, which started with a miserable month of April at triple A. He entered Thursday with 19 hits in his first 60 at-bats this month with six homers, two of which were walk-offs. He blasted a 469-foot home run, the longest in the 10-year history of Allentown's Coca-Cola Park. His season average of .213 was raised by 77 points since the end of April. Cozens' slump appears to be snapped.
"I think it's a credit to the player that he was able to weather that. It didn't beat him," said Joe Jordan, the Phillies director of player development. "He hung in there and got on a better roll. I'm proud of him. It was a tough stretch. He's not where he needs to be yet, but he hung in there good."
Cozens went to triple A this season after leading all of minor-league baseball last year with the 40 homers he smashed at double A. His introduction to the next level was tough. He had 11 hits in his first 81 at-bats with 40 strikeouts in his first 90 plate appearances. He ended April by going hitless in seven of his final eight games. Cozens, who was so promising at double A, now looked lost.
Cozens, who turns 23 on May 31, battled. He had three hits in his first game of May. He pieced together an eight-game hitting streak and reached base in 14 of the month's first 15 games. His strikeout rate - 18 whiffs in 16 May games - is still high but nowhere near the rate it was in April. Maybe Cozens just needed a month to find himself at triple A.
"If it doesn't beat you, you're always going to come out stronger on the other end ," Jordan said. "For me, it's black and white as long as you don't let it beat you. Guys need to go through that in the minor leagues before they get to the major leagues. They need to figure out, 'OK. How did I get out of it? Now I won't have to go through a month the next time. I can shorten that window to maybe a few games.' It's a good thing that it happens."
It was a concerning sign last season when just five of Cozens' 40 homers came against lefthanded pitching. The lefthanded batter seemed handcuffed when facing lefthanded opposition. It's certainly encouraging that half of Cozens' first 10 homers this season have come against lefthanders.
"We just want Dylan to continue to grow as a hitter. Period," Jordan said. "I don't care, and I'm not worried, about power. Just keep growing as a hitter. I think when you see those numbers against lefthanded pitching, hopefully that's part of his growth as a hitter. Make some adjustments. He's got some more to make. They all do. But I think it's a good sign."
Cozens went to the plate in the 12th inning last week, two days after his teammates had mobbed him at home plate. He faced a lefthanded pitcher, a great chance to test the growth that the Phillies hope to see. He delivered, crushing a breaking ball to right field for another walk-off. The water cooler was again dumped at home plate as Cozens seemed far away from a miserable first month.