Mixed results for prospect Cosart in debut
Young righty fans five, but allows four runs in 3 1/3 innings
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- He was electrifying at times and had a hard time missing bats at others. Jarred Cosart showed glimpses of why he's considered one of the team's top prospects when he was brought from Minor League camp Sunday to pitch in the Astros' Grapefruit League game against the Pirates at Osceola County Stadium.
Cosart, a starter who was acquired from the Phillies in July in the Hunter Pence trade, worked 3 1/3 innings in relief and gave up seven hits, four runs and one walk and struck out five. He pitched at 96-97 mph with his fastball and touched 98.
"It was a good experience with ups and downs," said Cosart, who threw 41 of his 64 pitches for strikes. "I did some good and some bad, and it's part of the game and the learning curve, I guess. I was very excited and had a lot of adrenaline and tried to learn some stuff while I was there."
Cosart, 21, came out of the chute and struck out the first three batters he faced in the sixth inning. His second inning wasn't quite as easy, as the Pirates got four consecutive hits at one point and wound up scoring three runs. He pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and didn't finish the ninth when a defensive play couldn't be made behind him.
"It's all about executing pitches, like in the Minors, but even more so when you get over here [to the Major League side]," he said. "You have to start executing. When I got hurt was when I got behind and missed up, and that's the basics of pitching. I just didn't do that."
Cosart -- ranked by MLB.com as the No. 2 Astros prospect and No. 61 overall -- will begin the year at either Double-A or Triple-A and should get his chance to make an impact on the Major League club soon. Sunday was simply a tantalizing appetizer.
"I'm not real bummed about [the outing]," he said. "It's Spring Training, and I'm still getting back into form. It's something to build off of and I'm throwing again Friday [in a Minor League game], and I'll work on some stuff in the bullpen Wednesday and go from there."
Bixler feeling more comfortable in outfield
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Brian Bixler made another start in the outfield Sunday, getting the nod in center field and hitting leadoff in the Astros' split-squad game against the Braves. Bixler has gotten more time in the outfield since Houston traded right-handed-hitting outfielder Jason Bourgeois.
Bixler, a shortstop by trade, hadn't played the outfield prior to 2009, but he appeared in 34 games in the outfield last year with the Nationals. He was claimed off waivers by the Astros in November, but isn't on the 40-man roster.
"I like it out there," he said of the outfield. "I'm comfortable there. I think just playing shortstop and then moving out there, it wasn't as hard as people initially thought."
Five of the Astros' seven outfielders remaining in camp hit from the left side of the plate, with starting left fielder J.D. Martinez and non-roster invitee Justin Ruggiano the only righties. Infielder Matt Downs, a right-handed hitter, can play the outfield along with Bixler.
"It only helps to be able to play all those spots," Bixler said. "I'm just hoping to do my best. It's out of your control, but hopefully it helps you out and makes you more valuable."
Like Downs, Bixler can also catch if needed. He's never caught in a game, but last year in Washington he warmed up pitchers and was considered the emergency catcher. Downs caught in the bullpen this year and could also get behind the plate if Jason Castro and Chris Snyder went down.
Struggling Bogusevic gets pep talk from Mills
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Despite his struggles at the plate this spring, outfielder Brian Bogusevic has received encouraging words from manager Brad Mills. The skipper told reporters last week Bogusevic had the upper hand to start in right field, and the two had an encouraging conversation Saturday.
Bogusevic entered Sunday's game against the Pirates hitting .124 (4-for-32) with nine strikeouts and five stolen bases. Bogusevic is one of the most athletic players on the club and had a productive final two months of the 2011 season.
"I've struggled and haven't felt great, but I've been working in the cage a lot, hitting extra batting practice," he said. "We're getting to the point we're starting to play more than we're not playing. It's not one day off, one day on anymore. That's helping, also. I think it's all just a matter of timing that swing."
Still, Bogusevic recognizes the importance of putting up good numbers in the spring, even if the manager is firmly in your corner.
"Definitely, when you're not getting the results you want, it's nice to know they still can see you in a good light and have confidence in you," he said.
Astros center fielder Jordan Schafer, who sprained his left hand making a diving catch in the outfield a week ago, is scheduled to return to the lineup Monday when the Astros face the Nationals in Viera. "He took some swings in the cage this morning and he feels a lot better," manager Brad Mills said.
Jack Cust, who has yet to play in the outfield in the Grapefruit League this spring because of a sore elbow, still isn't ready to play defense. Cust was slated to pinch-hit Sunday against the Pirates and was scheduled to have another pinch-hit at-bat Monday against the Nationals.
Mills isn't ready to commit to shortstop Jed Lowrie in the No. 2 hole in the order, but he's certainly leaning that way. "He sees a lot of pitches, gets on base," Mills said. "I like having a left-hander in that spot because if you've got a guy on, you've got a big hole there. He, especially, is able to utilize that hole."
Catcher Jason Castro started back-to-back games for the first time this spring against the Braves on Sunday. Catcher Chris Snyder, who started Sunday against the Pirates, will catch Monday against the Nationals in his first back-to-back outings. Both catchers are coming off injury-filled 2011 seasons.
Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Chris Girandola is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.