PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

July 12, 2013

Jarred Cosart dazzles in big league debut

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

— On Friday night, the most exciting thing on TV wasn’t a Sharknado. It was Astros rookie hurler Jarred Cosart.

In his major league debut, Cosart baffled, prodded and befuddled the Tampa Bay Rays for 6 1/3 innings before giving up his first hit to former Astros prospect Ben Zobrist. He was vying to be the first pitcher to throw a no-hitter in his MLB debut since Bumpus Jones in 1892.

He quickly got a double play to end the seventh, shutting out a good Rays team through the first seven innings of his big league career.

He had Astros fans on Twitter holding their breath, fighting for ways to watch the game if they didn’t have CSN Houston (most don’t). He had national media paying attention to the Astros for a good reason, which is an accomplishment more Herculean than his no-hit bid.

But, the Cosart story doesn’t stop there.

See, before the game, he was told this was his one shot. He was getting sent back to the minors on Saturday. Good job, kid. Pitch better next time.

It almost sounds like a movie, doesn’t it?

Cosart nearly turned it into a Hollywood masterpiece, but had to settle for one of the best Astros pitching debuts in years. His fastball, which touched 97 mph at times, was overpowering. One Rays broadcaster said he had the best stuff they’d seen that year.

Not since Carlos Hernandez twirled seven shutout innings against the Pirates on August 18, 2001 has an Astros pitcher shut out a team for as long as Cosart did in his first career game. Hernandez’ story fell apart thanks to one ill-fated slide into second, but Cosart’s is still going.

The former Clear Creek pitcher was drafted in the 38th round by the Phillies in 2008, signed and quickly became one of the best prospects in their system. He headlined the Hunter Pence trade in 2011, along with Jonathan Singleton, and quickly became one of Houston’s best pitching prospects.

He is not, however, without his prickly spots.

Cosart didn’t like getting passed over for a spring training bid last season. He talked about it openly, but more importantly, he went out and pitched well enough in the minors to force the Astros hand.

In 2012, he got his spring training invite, pitched brilliantly at times, but still got demoted. He pitched well for Oklahoma city, worked on everything the organization told him to work on (including his secondary stuff), and still got passed over for promotions. Guys like Paul Clemens and Jose Cisnero got to The Show before him.

He bristled some more.

I’m sure he wasn’t keen on getting the hook before he’d even stepped on a mound Friday.

Maybe that fire drove him to pitch so well against Tampa Bay. Maybe it allowed him to focus on the task at hand, on showing Houston and its fans what he can do when given the chance.

Maybe he just wanted to force Houston’s hand once again.

Houston hasn’t officially announced the roster move demoting Cosart, but they need a spot on the roster for Justin Maxwell, who is ready to return from the 7-day disabled list. They also need to find another member of the starting rotation, after Lucas Harrell was demoted at the beginning of this week.

They’ve got time for that. Houston is pushing Bud Norris’ next start back to after the All-Star break. That might be about lining up the rotation after that, but it may also be trade-related. Norris has been in trade rumors for months.

If Houston is going to make a change, Cosart certainly made his case for being a part of that rotation next time around. The Astros could option Cosart tomorrow and call him back up on July 23, when his next turn in the rotation would pop up, anyways.

On Friday, Cosart’s most impressive accomplishment may have simply been giving Astros fans hope. The future is no longer waiting in the minors.

It’s here.

David Coleman is a sportswriter for the Port Arthur News. He can be emailed at dcoleman@panews.com or found on Twitter at @MDavidColeman.