Cosart eager to crack hometown Astros' roster
Acquired in Pence deal, prospect putting in work to make big club
LEAGUE CITY, Texas -- Jarred Cosart sits comfortably atop a picnic table in a park in his hometown and smiles repeatedly when he talks about his good fortune of the last six months.
As one of four Minor League players acquired by the Astros in exchange for All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence last July, Cosart went from an organization stocked with terrific starting pitching at the Major League level to one where opportunity abounds and advancement can be rapid.
He also moved a step closer to fulfilling his dream of pitching for the Astros, the team he cheered for while growing up about 25 miles south of Minute Maid Park. His father had Astros season tickets, and a teenage Cosart was in the stands, cheering like crazy when Houston was in the World Series in 2005.
"It's everyone's dream to pitch in the big leagues, and I think even moreso having the opportunity to play for your hometown team," Cosart said.
That opportunity may come sooner rather than later for Cosart, a 6-foot-3 right-hander who's ranked as the 61st-best Minor League prospect in baseball by MLB.com. That's refreshing news for an Astros team whose Minor League system was depleted by a series of poor Drafts from 2005-07.
In the offseason, Cosart has been making the short drive daily from his parents' house to Minute Maid Park to work out with current Astros like Bud Norris, Chris Johnson, Brian Bogusevic, Brett Wallace and Humberto Quintero. He's picked their brains, studied how they go about their business and can't help but wonder how long until he shares a clubhouse with them. He can't help but wonder when he'll put on the Astros uniform for the first time.
"It's a lie if anyone says they don't think about it," he said. "It's in your head."
Coming off a 106-loss season and in full-blown rebuild mode, the Astros will be hitching their future to up-and-comers like Cosart and outfielder/first baseman Jonathan Singleton, who also came over from the Phillies, as well as 2011 first-round pick George Springer.
"No pressure, right?" Cosart says with a smile. "I don't view it as pressure. I think it's an added challenge. They showed the interest and confidence they had in me when they traded perhaps the face of the franchise the last few years to get the pieces to get back to where we were in '05. It's a great honor, and I'm looking forward to having an impact at some point in helping turn the Astros around."
Cosart, 21, is likely to begin the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, which is where he was assigned after coming from the Phillies. He made seven starts for the Hooks last year and was 1-2 with a 4.71 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 36 innings. Remove his second and final outings with the Hooks, and he had a 0.93 ERA and a .146 batting average against.
He wasn't drafted until the 38th round by the Phillies in 2008 out of Clear Creek High School after teams became concerned about his signability (he signed to play at the University of Missouri). He shot through the Phillies' system, thanks to an explosive fastball that approaches 100 mph and a solid changeup and curveball.
"The stuff has gotten me this far, and now it's about being able to control it in the zone and know what I want to do to each pitch," Cosart said. "It's more about studying hitters and swings and stuff like that, which I haven't had to do in the past at the lower levels. A lot of guys throw hard, but when you get to Double-A, hitters get paid to hit. It's about the little stuff."
One of the first things the Astros did when Cosart arrived in Corpus Christi was slow him down. They felt he was rushing himself during his delivery, so they taught him to take a moment between pitches and control the tempo.
"They told me to take a step off the mound, take a deep breath regardless of what happened before and gather yourself and believe in your stuff," he said. "I would say I was more over-thinking, and that caused me to rush, so just doing little stuff like that was causing me to slow down and get back to my mechanics."
Cosart comes from a baseball family. His maternal grandfather, Ed Donnelly, appeared in nine games for the Cubs in 1959, and spent two seasons with the Cubs' Triple-A affiliate, the Houston Buffs, in 1960-61. Houston became a Major League town a year later.
There is also more talent in the Cosart pipeline. The middle of the three Cosart brothers, Jake, is a senior pitcher at Clear Creek who has signed to play at Duke and will be drafted this June. Youngest brother, Jansen, is a junior at the same school, and Jarred says he has the tools play the middle infield at the next level.
"They're about on the same path that I was," he said. "They were lanky athletes coming in as freshmen, had a little time on varsity and they both shot up and grew."
Cosart will be leaving for Spring Training next week in what will likely be his last appearance in Minor League camp. He figures to be a part of the Astros' rotation in 2013 and beyond as the team hits the American League and continues the long climb back to contention.
That's why Cosart has worked so hard this offseason, to ensure he can be a part of something special in Houston -- in his hometown and for his team. The Astros are once again the team he can't help but love and he knows better days are ahead.
"That's one thing I can say about the Astros," he said. "As bad it was last year, no one likes to lose. Just being in the workout room with guys like Bud, C.J., Bogie and older guys like Quintero, you know losing is not going to fly.
"The Astros will turn it around, I can promise you that. The front office knows what they want, and the players know what they want. Whether that's next year or five years down the road, it will happen."