Results tagged ‘ Jarred Cosart ’

Cosart expects to be on innings limit

Sunday was right-hander Jarred Cosart’s scheduled day to pitch, but the Astros choose to start Brad Peacock and give Cosart some extra rest. He’s thrown 105 2/3 innings in the first half, which puts him on pace to best his personal high of 153 set last year between Triple-A Oklahoma City and the Astros.

Cosart’s arm feels fine, but he said general manager Jeff Luhnow indicated to him his workload would increase by 20 percent each season until he reaches 200 innings. That means he could be shut down around 183 2/3 innings this year.

“When I first came over here, Jeff said they were going to do a 20-percent increase in my innings every year until I got to 200,” Cosart said. “By that time, I’ll have a couple of years under my belt and hopefully we’ll be fighting for a playoff spot, so my innings won’t really matter. They didn’t tell me an exact number [of innings], but if you go off 20 percent of last year, it would be right around [190].”

Cosart was shut down last Sept. 9 after throwing 60 innings in 10 starts in his debut with the Astros. He had thrown 93 at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“That’s tough to have to sit and watch for about a month,” Cosart said. “I’ll take missing one now. I’m not hurt or anything like that, so I support the decision. I know I have a 190-innings limit, so if I average five or six a start I’m going to be cutting it close at the end of the year anyway.”

Cosart excited for Minute Maid Park debut

Getting a chance to finally make his Major League debut against Tampa Bay 10 days ago was certainly a big moment in the life of Astros right-hander Jarred Cosart, but Tuesday’s game at Minute Maid Park against the A’s figures to be right up there, too.

Cosart, who grew up in the Houston area and cheered for the Astros, will make his first home start Tuesday when he faces Oakland in front of what should be a sizable cheering section for him. Cosart said he’s leaving 75 tickets for family, but plenty of friends are buying their own. The A’s are 10-0 against the Astros this year.

“It’s been a crazy week, and to top it off making my first home start, it’s going to be something I’ll never forget,” he said. “I’ll have to put the nerves aside and try to do too much. Just go out there and try to pitch like I know I’m capable of.”

In his Major League debut on July 12, Cosart threw eight scoreless innings and held the Rays to two hits in a 2-1 win over David Price, the reigning Cy Young Award winner. It was arguably the greatest debut by an Astros starting pitcher.

“I kind of set myself up with the debut in Tampa, but the biggest thing is to go out there and give my team a chance to win and try and get a quality start and keep us in the game,” Cosart said. “I know there will probably be more nerves at home than there was on the road. I’ve grown up here my whole life and I’ll have tons of people in the stands.”

He added: “I couldn’t have asked for any better way to come out of the gate. They were one of the hottest teams in baseball. … To go out there and have an outing like I did, it was a very special time. Like I said before, that’s in the past and now I have to focus on the A’s, who are on fire. I know the Astros haven’t beaten them this year and that will be another challenge.”

When asked what he learned about pitching in the Major Leagues in his first start in Tampa, Cosart said getting ahead with a first-pitch strike is key.

“I got behind to a couple of hitters and they hit the ball a lot harder when they were behind in the count,” he said. “It starts with fastball command, whether you throw 95 or 88. If you can command the fastball, you’ll have a lot better day. I have to throw a lot better offspeed pitches for strikes. In the Minor Leagues, you can get by with the fastball and I don’t think that’s possible in the big leagues. They’ll start timing it up, whether it’s 88 or 100. I think the biggest thing is being able to mix up pitches, change eye levels. It starts, especially for me, with fastball command.”

Cosart has eyed this moment from the time the Astros acquired him and three other prospects from the Phillies in exchange for Hunter Pence two years ago.

“It’s been a grind for me,” Cosart said. “I’ve had injuries earlier in my career that I couldn’t control. I’ve been blessed I haven’t had any major surgeries, but getting there is a feat in itself. I want to say [in the big leagues] and I don’t want to be another guy. I don’t want to go up and down and I know in order to do that, I’m going to have to pitch.

“I want to go up there and do what I did the first start, attacking the zone, change speeds and get my team back in the dugout as quickly as possible. I want to establish myself as hopefully a No. 1 starter. I want to be somebody when they put the ball in our hands every fifth day, you have a shot to not only win the game, but to dominate the game. That’s what I want to do throughout my career and hopefully I finish the year strong and establish myself for next year in Spring Training.”

Cosart thrilled for chance to pitch for Astros

Right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart, a prized prospect from the Astros’ improving Minor League system, got the call Wednesday night that he was headed for the Major Leagues in the first of what could be a wave of premier prospects hitting Houston this year.

The Astros announced following Wednesday’s game Cosart – their top-ranked pitching prospect – would make his big league debut by starting Friday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, Fla. The team optioned outfielder Jimmy Paredes to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

“I’m so excited and thankful for the opportunity,” Cosart told MLB.com. “It’s tough when you get to the Triple-A level. Everybody says don’t think about when you’re going up and just keep pitching, but it’s really hard, and anybody can tell you that. Jordan [Lyles] was in that position and a lot of other guys have been, too. I was completely caught off guard today.

“I figured with the off days and what not there was no chance, so I was caught off guard and shocked and overjoyed and everything.”

Cosart, who grew up in the Houston area, was acquired by the Astros from the Phillies as one of four players in the Hunter Pence deal in 2011. Another player acquired in that deal – first baseman Jonathan Singleton – is Houston’s top-ranked prospect and could reach the Majors this year for the rebuilding Astros.

Outfielder George Springer, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, is off to a quick start at Triple-A after spending the first half of the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he hit 20 home runs. Springer is hitting .417 with seven homers and 17 RBIs and is making a case to reach Houston this summer, too.

Cosart, 23, went 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) for the RedHawks this year.

He charted pitches in the stands in Round Rock, Texas, on Wednesday night and was called on the carpet in the middle of the clubhouse by Oklahoma City manager Tony DeFrancesco for wearing flip-flops, even though he wore sneakers. With his teammates around him, DeFrancesco told Cosart the real reason he summoned him – he was going to the Majors.

“The guys are amazing here and they were happy for me and it’s been a fun ride here, but now it’s time to show what I can do up there and prove to them I can run with this shot,” he said.

Cosart then grabbed his phone and called his parents in League City, Texas, for a tear-filled phone call before getting some advice on big league life from outfielder Justin Maxwell, who plans to fly with Cosart to Tampa on Thursday morning. Maxwell was rehabbing from a concussion with Oklahoma City.

“It’s a game I’ve been playing since I was 7 years old,” Cosart said. “It’s 60 feet, 6 inches [from home plate to the pitcher’s mound]. I know it’s my first ever start in the Major Leagues and there’s going to be some adrenaline or nerves or whatever you call it, but I’m going to try to get that first pitch out of the way and go from there.”

Cosart considers the Tampa area his home away from home, considering he spent a few Spring Trainings with the Phillies in nearby Clearwater, Fla. Some of his former Phillies teammates are rehabbing in Clearwater when Cosart will be taking the mound in a big league game.

He said he didn’t think he’d have trouble sleeping Wednesday night, but Thursday could be a different story. Cosart said he didn’t know whether he would remain in the Astros’ rotation following the All-Star break or return to Oklahoma City.

“Hopefully I pitch well enough to make them keep me up there,” he said. “It’s all about consistency. I don’t know much about the Rays, but I know [catcher Jason] Castro is great with scouting reports and [pitching coach Doug Brocail] and those guys will help me do what I need to do.”

Game 11: Porter unhappy after loss to the Tigers

What happened: The Astros played their poorest game of the spring, striking out 15 times, issuing nine walks and committing a pair of fielding errors in an 8-5 loss to the Tigers on Monday afternoon (boxscore).

What we learned: Being able to throw hard is great, but control remains the key Astros prospect Jarred Cosart made his first spring start and struggled with his control, allowing four hits, three runs and four walks. He threw only 23 of his 48 pitches for strikes and admitted he was working too fast.

“I wanted to establish the fastball early and they had the scouting reports that I’m a fastball guy and they were attacking from the start of the game,” Cosart said. “I was up in the zone and you just can’t do that with Major League hitters. You have to put them away when you get ahead.”

What we learned II: CF Justin Maxwell has some serious raw power. Well, we actually already knew this based on his several tape-measure shots from a year ago, but his first home run of the spring — a mammoth two-run blast to left field — in the sixth inning was admired by all.

“I don’t try to hit home runs, especially in Spring Training,” Maxwell said. “I’m just trying to hit the ball hard and just trying to find my swing right now and get better timing. … That’s just the thing. Any time I’ve tried to hit a homer I foul it off or don’t make contact, so depending on the game situation I try to hit the ball hard. If I barrel it, I have a good chance to have a positive result.”

What else: RHP Alex White also struggled with his control, allowing four hits, three runs (two earned) and two walks in 1 2/3 innings. … Tigers reliever Al Albuquerque struck out Chris Carter, George Springer and Nate Freiman in succession in the eighth inning. … RHPs Josh Zeid and Josh Fields each threw a scoreless innings, and LHP Kevin Chapman threw 1 1/3 scoreless with two strikeouts.

What went wrong: Plenty. Let’s start with the on the mound, where Astros pitchers labored most of the game and wound up walking nine batters. Houston hurlers threw only seven first-pitch strikes and worked repeatedly into deep counts. Astros manager Bo Porter said the issue would be addressed, but the thing that really had Porter fired up was the defense. A fielding error by Jonathan Villar at short didn’t hurt the club, but Jake Elmore‘s fielding error at second allowed an unearned run to score.

The Astros have committed 15 errors in 11 games.

“We’ve got to catch the ball,” Porter said. “We’ve come back from every deficit we’ve had this entire spring. Offensively, we’re scoring runs, but at the same time we’ve got to make it a little bit easier on our pitching staff to catch the ball when it’s hit to us, and our pitchers got to do a better job of pitching ahead in the count and limiting some of those deep counts.”

What they said: “This is the thing: either you make the plays or we’re going to find someone else who’s going to make them. That’s not hard to figure out,” — Astros manager Bo Porter on the team’s defense.

What’s next: Porter, who spent the previous two years as third base coach of the Nationals, returns to Viera, Fla., on Tuesday when the Astros play the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT at Space Coast Stadium. RHP Lucas Harrell, the team’s Pitcher of the Year in 2012, will be making this third start and should be able to be stretched to four innings.

Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (ankle) is scheduled to make his first appearance in a spring game Tuesday. … C Max Stassi (sports hernia surgery) is out six to eight weeks.

Tweet of the day:

Links of the day: All kinds of good stuff in the Astros notebook: More on the meeting between George Springer and Torii Hunter, when the first round of roster cuts could happen, Mike Foltynewicz’s thoughts on the upcoming season and Tony DeFrancesco enjoying role with club after managing final 41 games last year.

The day in photos (light day today):

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Rick Ankiel, Trevor Crowe and Matt Dominguez

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John Mallee and Carlos Pena

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Astros catchers past and present: Jason Castro and Alan Ashby

Game 1: Astros hit, run, pitch way past Phillies

What happened: The Astros bashed out 14 hits, including a home run by Brandon Barnes, and got some solid pitching across the board to beat the Phillies, 8-3, in their Grapefruit League opener and American League debut (boxscore) on Saturday. After practicing their post-game handshake for two weeks, the Astros finally got a chance to use with their first win of the spring.

“Offensively these guys swung the bats and ran the bases great,” manager Bo Porter said. “I think base running was a key factor in the game and it put a lot of pressure on the other team and created more scoring opportunities for us.”

What we learned: The Astros are going to be aggressive. They stole four bases early in the game, including a double steal by Tyler Greene and Trevor Crowe in the third inning, and Porter says they will force the issue and put pressure on opponents as much as possible.

“It’s a staple of our team,” Porter said. “I told the guys earlier on in the spring that if you want to find out an identity of a ballclub, watch them run the bases. It’s aggressive, but it’s controlled aggression, and we are only going to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented in front of us.”

What we learned II: RHP Jarred Cosart does OK in pressure. Cosart, the right-hander who’s battling for a spot on the club, returned to Clearwater to face his former team and pitched two perfect innings, overcoming some nerves in the bullpen prior to the game. He was acquired by Houston from the Phillies in 2011. Cosart had good arm speed on his changeup and was locating his fastball well.

“I felt great,” he said. “I was a little worried in the bullpen. It was a little off down there. Originally, I was supposed to come in in the fourth and that didn’t work out and they wanted to get Xavier [Cedeno] some work with some lefties and face [Ryan] Howard and some other guys. That kind of threw me off. I got in there and was a little sporadic in the bullpen. Nerves had something to do with that. When I got out there, it was clicking pretty well and I was getting the ball out of my glove, which is what we had been working on all Spring Training. I’m ecstatic.”

What we learned III: Barnes is a gamer. Barnes made a good first impression by hitting Houston’s first homer of the spring and throwing out a runner at the plate from center field. Here’s video of the homer.

“I’m just going to come out here and play as hard as I can,” Barnes said. “I went out to winter ball and worked on some things, and I’m just trying to carry it over here and keep going. We’re going to make a good push at this and we’re going to work hard every day.”

What else: RHP Lucas Harrell had a few mechanical issues, but for the most part he kept the ball down and made it through two innings and got in his work in his first start (Harrell video here). … OF Robbie Grossman made a nice impression by going 2-for-3, and 2B Marwin Gonzalez also went 2-for-3. … RHP Josh Zeid, RHP Sam Demel and LHP Xavier Cedeno each threw a scoreless inning.

What went wrong: The Astros had one mental mistake in the first inning. With Howard at at-bat and a shift moving another infielder to the right side of the second base, Chase Utley was able to advance two bases when no one covered third on a ball hit between first and second.

What they said: “It always feels good when you play well. More importantly, we played clean baseball. There were no errors, we swung the bat well and our situational hitting was good. Defensively, we made the plays we were supposed to make, and when you do those things right it gives you the best chance to win ballgames.” — manager Bo Porter.

What’s next: RHP Bud Norris takes the mound for the Astros in their first home game of Grapefruit League play at 12:05 p.m. CT Sunday against the Mets at Osceola County Stadium. He’s scheduled to throw two innings. Second baseman Jose Altuve, catcher Jason Castro, outfielder Rick Ankiel and designated hitter Carlos Pena, all of whom didn’t make the trip to Clearwater on Saturday, are scheduled to get their first game action.

Who’s injured: RHP Hector Ambriz (sprained ankle) and catcher Max Stassi (oblique) continue to progress.

Links of the day: Astros notebook has Carlos Correa’s thoughts as he hits camp, some thoughts on how the Astros are going to get creative with their pitching staff in the Minor Leagues and much more.

The day in photos:

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Bo Porter warms up his arm.

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Bo Porter gets interviewed.

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The future: Jarred Cosart, George Springer and Delino DeShields.

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Jeff Murphy and Ryan Howard.

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Bo Porter throws batting practice.

Cosart excited to play in Rising Stars Game

Jarred Cosart, the Astros’ top-ranked pitching prospect by MLB.com, has been selected to start in Saturday’s Arizona Fall League Rising Stars game, which will be televised on MLB Network. Cosart is 0-2 with a 7.36 ERA in four starts for the Mesa Solar Sox, but the results aren’t as important while he works on command of a third pitch.

The seventh annual contest will be televised at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick. Cosart, representing the Solar Sox and East Division team, will square off against Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson of the Peoria Javelinas and West Division club.

Cosart’s normal turn in the rotation would have been Thursday, but he’ll throw in the bullpen instead to get prepared for Saturday’s game.

“I’m really excited to play in that,” he said. “I got to watch it last year and a lot of the guys that played like [Mike] Trout and [Bryce] Harper, guys that made an immediate impact in the big leagues. Obviously, that’s the goal for anybody. It’s another notch in the belt, another steppingstone to get where I want to be and a chance to show against top competition.”

Cosart is one of a handful of Astros players scheduled to appear at Friday night’s brand launch party at Minute Maid Park. That will make for a whirlwind weekend for the Houston-area product, who will catch an early morning flight to Houston on Friday and another early flight back to Phoenix on Saturday before pitching in the Rising Stars Game.

“I’ll get a nap and be ready to go,” he said.

Game 22: Happ battles, Cosart dazzles

It was a rough day at the ballparks (plural) on Sunday for the Astros, whose split squad was beaten, 11-1, by the Braves in Lake Buena Vista (boxscore) and 9-7 in 10 innings by the Pirates in Kissimmee (boxscore).

I chose to stay in Kissimmee, mostly for the chance to see top prospect Jarred Cosart make a Grapefruit League appearance and I’m glad I did. More on that later.

Here’s the link to the notebook, which includes Brian Bixler’s thoughts on playing the outfield and Brian Bogusevic talking about his struggles. Check back soon for reaction from Cosart about his performance.

Here’s the breakdown of the loss to the Pirates:

What went right: Jarred Cosart, the team’s top pitching prospect, pitched in his first Major League Grapefruit League game and gave up seven hits and four runs and struck out five batters in 3 1/3 innings. I put this under the “What went right” category because he was electrifying at times, pitching at 96, 97-mph and hitting 98-mph. He struck out the side in his first inning of work and had a 1-2-3 inning in his third inning. The two other innings were messy, but Cosart is here to learn and improve.

J.A. Happ’s line of five innings and nine hits and three runs wasn’t terrific, but he made some big pitches at key times and limited the damage. It didn’t hurt the Astros turned a pair of double plays behind him, either. When Cosart couldn’t finish the ninth because of his pitch count, Fernando Abad came in and got the final two outs.

At the plate, J.B. Shuck went 1-for-4 with a three-run triple in the seventh inning that tied the game at 6. Jed Lowrie hit his second homer of the spring, and both have been from the left side of the plate, which is huge. Brian Bogusevic went 2-for-3 with two walks and appears to be having better at-bats. Catcher Chris Snyder hit his third homer of the spring, off fellow University of Houston product Brad Lincoln.

Left-fielder J.D. Martinez threw out a runner at first base in the first inning after a running catch for a nice double play. The Astros didn’t make an error…officially.

What went wrong: Astros pitchers gave up 20 hits, including 18 singles. Happ allowed nine hits, Cosart seven and Enerio Del Rosario four hits in the 10th inning in his only inning of work. Del Rosario was having a pretty good spring prior to that outing. J.D. Martinez and Carlos Lee each went 0-for-3.

Minor League infielder Ben Orloff allowed the Pirates to tie the game in the ninth with Cosart on the mound when he lost a popup in the sun and couldn’t catch it, allowing a runner to scamper home from third. Orloff threw to second to get a force out, which is why he wasn’t charged with an error.

Happ was inconsistent, working in and out of trouble in all five of his innings. He loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth and allowed only one run, which was a good result at the time.

What they said: “It was a good experience with ups and downs. 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.” — Astros pitching prospect Jarred Cosart on his first Grapefruit League outing Sunday.

What’s next: Center fielder Jordan Schafer, who’s been out of action since March 18 with a sprained left wrist suffered while making a diving catch, is scheduled to return to the lineup Monday when the Astros face the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT in Viera, Fla. Jordan Lyles, a candidate for the fifth starter spot, will start the game for the Astros.

Injury update: RHP Wilton Lopez, who hadn’t pitched since March 9 because of forearm tightness, returned to the mound and worked a 1-2-3 inning against the Braves with two strikeouts. … CF Jordan Schafer, who’s been out of action since March 18 with a sprained left wrist suffered while making a diving catch, is scheduled to return to the lineup Monday when the Astros face the Nationals. … OF Jack Cust (elbow) was again limited to pinch-hit duties Sunday and drew a walk against the Pirates. … Bud Norris (triceps tightness) threw 30-40 fastball in the bullpen Sunday in an effort to get ready for his next start. … LHP Sergio Escalona (ulnar collateral ligament) will miss the entire season and will under Tommy John surgery next week.

Here are the photos:

Astros Minor Leagues hang out in the outfield, including Jarred Cosart (28) and my man Alberto Arias (far right).

Livan Hernandez is always keeping it loose.

Brett Myers still wants to hit for some reason.

Jordan Schafer takes BP a week removed from spraining his hand.

Clint Barmes made his return to Kissimmee and played a hard 10 innings.

Mike Barnett gives Jordan Schafer a few pointers.

Mills eager for full squad to hit the field

The Astros will hold their first full-squad workout on Sunday, when all 63 players in Major League camp are scheduled to hit the field for the first time this spring. Manager Brad Mills expects everyone to report by Sunday morning.

“We’re very happy with the six days we’ve had [with pitchers and catchers] and now we’re ready to move forward,” he said.

In fact, the Astros have had a huge number of position players participating in drills for the last few days, a number that’s growing daily. Non-roster outfielder Brandon Barnes, who showed up Friday, was on the field for the first time Saturday.

The only players who hadn’t worked out at Osceola County Stadium by Saturday were outfielders Carlos Lee and Jonathan Singleton and infielder Jonathan Villar. Position players aren’t required to report until Sunday morning, when they will be given physicals prior to take the field.

Here’s the day in photos:

His back feeling better, Wandy Rodriguez took the mound Saturday.

David Carpenter throws in the bullpen wiht Jon Matlack watching.

Jason Castro and David Carpenter talk after their bullpen.

Doug Brocail gives some pointers to Lucas Harrell.

Conditioning drills capped the day for the pitchers.

Brett Wallace swings in the cage.

Right-handers Jarred Cosart and Mike Foltynewicz and left-hander Brett Oberholtzer – three young pitchers ranked among the Astros’ top seven prospects by MLB.com – were among seven hurlers who participated Saturday in the first day a Minor League mini camp.

The other participants are right-handers Jake Buchanan, Ross Seaton, Josh Zeid and Jason Stoffel and catchers Miles Hamblin, Ryan McCurdy, Roberto Pena and Mike Kvasnicka. Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow, who watched the pitchers throw, said the young arms will get some innings in Grapefruit League games.

Here’s a quick Q and A with Foltynewicz:

Q: What are you hoping to get out of the Minor League mini camp?

A: “Trying to work on the things we left off on in instructional ball, trying to get the command of the strike zone down. I’m really just trying to get a head start along with these seven guys to get ready for a good season.”

Q: How excited are you about a chance to pitch in a big-league Spring Training game?

A: “Heard about that probably a month ago, and it made me want to work even harder. That’s my ultimate goal, and it’s that little bit more motivation.”

Q: How big of a year is this for you?

A: “It’s a pretty big year. Last year, I had good games and had bad games, and this year I just have to put it all together and find that happy medium. I think it’s a big year to prove myself to a lot of the doubters out there, so it’s a pretty big year.”

Q: What’s it like to be a part of this group of talented young arms coming up?

A: “It’s pretty exciting. Later on down the road, this is going to be a great Houston Astros team. we’ve got a lot of good arms and I’m really excited for the future.”

Here’s a quick Q and A with Jarred Cosart:

Q: What are you hoping to get out of the Minor League mini camp?

A: “It’s great. I was bummed at first about not coming to big league camp, but it happens and there’s nothing I can do about it. I can’t control it. That’s what Fred and all the guys told me today, to come out here and pitch and getting down here early just helps me get a little jump on everybody else coming to Minor League camp. It’s a good group of guys and I had Brocail and a lot of the big league guys watching today, so it’s really not much different than over there.”

Q: Are you excited about the chance of pitching in a Grapefruit League game?

A: “This would be my first chance. They said be ready to throw in multiple big league games. They’re getting us ready as if we’re in big league camp and I’ve heard they’re having a lot of split squad games to get a lot of the younger guys over there who are fighting for that fifth spot. They’re going to have openings. They said to be ready for a couple of games.”

Q: You’re getting instruction from Doug Brocail and Jon Matlack. How beneficial is that?

“I got open ears to anything. Matlack pitched in the big leagues for 15 years a while back and Brocail just recently came out of the game and he’s been a big league pitching coach for two or three years now. They know what they’re talking about, as do all these coaches. I’m always open to any advice, mechanical, mental, whatever. They just said I’ll make a lot of money if I pitch down. That’s pretty much the basics of pitching. Right now it’s staying consistent and doing the little things. They said the stuff is there and the name of the game is mix pitches and staying down in the zone, and I have a chance to be pretty good if I can do that.”

Here are some photos from the first day of Minor League mini camp:

Brett Oberholtzer plays pepper.

Mike Foltynewicz plays pepper.

Jarred Cosart has some fun.

Ross Seaton has fielding drills.

A look back on the 2011 Minor League season

The Astros’ eight Minor League affiliates went a combined 337-488, with no team finishing with a winning record. Of the four full-season clubs, Triple-A Oklahoma City finished with the best record at 68-75 in the Pacific Coast League. Double-A Corpus Christi went 50-90 overall, Class A Lancaster was 55-85 overall and Class A Lexington was 59-79 overall.

Astros director of player development Fred Nelson wished the teams’ collective performances would have been better, but the club pushed players aggressively through the system this year and continued to send players to the Major Leagues.

“I would say we’re disappointed from a team standpoint, but I spent some time over the weekend looking at some things and our clubs have been very young,” Nelson said. “And so it makes it difficult at times to compete. That’s no excuse, but certainly our clubs have been young and we’re also just one of seven other clubs that field seven teams here in the United States, so you spread your players a little bit thinner. The individual performances have been very rewarding.”

The system sent several players to the Major Leagues, including third baseman Jimmy Paredes, second baseman Jose Altuve and left fielder J.D. Martinez, each of whom made the jump from Double-A to start in the big leagues. Twenty-year-old pitcher Jordan Lyles made 15 starts for the Astros.

“We moved a lot of players this year, some of it by need,” Nelson said. “Also, just the domino effect. When you take guys to the big leagues it creates holes and opportunities, and we really pushed a lot of kids and most have held their own and done quite well and positioned themselves to be pretty good players for us.”

The biggest impact on the system came when the team traded away Jeff Keppinger, Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn near the Trade Deadline. The Astros received 10 players in return, including four of the Phillies’ top prospects – pitchers Jarred Cosart, first baseman Jonathan Singleton, pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named later that turned out to be outfielder Domingo Santana.

Pitcher Henry Sosa, who came from the Giants in the Keppinger deal, joined the Astros rotation and has pitched well. Two players acquired from the Braves – outfielder Jordan Schafer and pitcher Juan Abreu – are in the Major Leagues.

“The influx of players, especially the pitchers we got in the trades, have helped us at the Double-A and Triple-A levels moving forward,” Nelson said. “And some of the young kids, the Singleton kid and the signing of [first-round pick George] Springer and the Santana kid that we got from Philadelphia, has really helped us get younger.”

Springer is scheduled to go the instructional league in Florida, and the team is exploring the possibility of trying to find him a winter ball spot in a less competitive environment that Venezuela or the Dominican Republic.

“I think he’ll have a busy offseason playing and that should position himself well to come to Spring Training with a good idea of what’s expected and what’s here,” Nelson said.

The Astros were, of course, thrilled with what Kody Hinze was able to do while splitting the season between Class A Lancaster and Double-A Corpus Christi. He hit a combined .306 with 29 homers and 98 RBIs. He had a .458 on-base percentage and a 1.083 OPS in 80 games at Lancaster, which is in the hitting-friendly California League.

One of the players that opened eyes this season is left-handed hitting outfielder Jacob Goebbert, who began the year in Lancaster and finished in Triple-A Oklahoma City. He hit a combined .290 with 12 homers and 67 RBIs with a .352 on-base percentage.

The Astros were pleased with the progress of shortstop Jonathan Villar, who was acquired last year in a trade with the Phillies. He began the season at Lancaster and finished up at Corpus Christi and began to mature and settle into his new surroundings.

Nelson was also impressed with right-hander Jake Buchanan, a starter who was drafted in the eighth round in 2010. He went 5-10 with a 3.91 ERA at Lancaster, walking 35 batters and striking out 102 in 158 2/3 innings in the hitter-friendly California League.

“He pitched exceptionally well,” Nelson said. “We moved him for his last start, with [Lucas] Harrell coming to the big leagues, and he went to Double-A and threw seven innings and gave up a run. That was a nice ending to the season. You’ve got to be excited about what he did.”

Outfielder Austin Wates, the team’s third-round pick in 2010 out of Virginia Tech, batted .300 with nine triples, six homers and 75 RBIs this year in 526 at-bats at Lancaster.

“He’s somebody that had not played a lot in the organization,” Nelson said. “He signed late and went to Tri-City and for the first time and in a full season to go out to the Cal League and do what he did, ending up at .300 and driving in 70-plus runs, that’s good.”

As far as the team’s most recent first-round selections, 2010 pick Delino DeShields Jr. batted just .220 with 30 stolen bases in Class A Lexington of the South Atlantic League, but the Astros were pleased with the way he made the transition full-time from the outfield to second base.

“Delino DeShields actually played outstanding in the Sally League when you look at the fact he played all year at 18,” Nelson said. “I believe he may have been the youngest player in the league. To go from being a converted outfielder to the infield and what we saw of him a year ago in the instructional league to where he stands now defensively is pretty remarkable on his part.

“You have to give him a lot of credit, and a lot of credit to the development people who worked with him. He has a long way to go. He’s just 18 years old, and I could see him being a player that repeats in that league.”

Shortstop Jiovanni Mier, the team’s No. 1 pick in 2009, split the season between Lexington and Lancaster and batted a combined .239 with seven homers, 52 RBIs and a .345 on-base percentage.

“After the All-Star game, we moved him to California League and he played outstanding defense,” Nelson said. “He did get hurt; he missed two-to-three weeks with a knee injury. He has made some adjustments offensively and I think he’s had some challenges offensively. He’s positioned himself to come back and compete for a job in Double-A next year.”

Meanwhile, Vincent Velasquez is making progress in his return from Tommy John surgery. Velasquez was the Astros’ second-round pick in 2010 out of high school in Southern California, and he injured his elbow pitching at rookie-league Greeneville.

Nelson said he’ll throw some innings in the instructional league later this month.

“We’re excited about the progress he made, and we’re looking forward to him getting back into action,” he said. “It’s almost like we acquired another [player through the draft].”

Cosart thrilled to join Astros

The dream of pitching in the Major Leagues just got much better for Jarred Cosart.

Cosart, one of four players acquired by the Astros in the deal that sent Hunter Pence to the Phillies on Friday night, grew up cheering for the Astros from his home in League City, Texas, which is about 27 miles south of Houston. He’ll report to Double-A Corpus Christi (at Midland, Texas) on Sunday and hopes to be pitching at Minute Maid Park soon.

“I can’t describe it in words,” Cosart told MLB.com via phone. “It’s stuff you read about all the time, players having a chance to play for their hometown team. I don’t know how many guys in the Major Leagues right now have that opportunity. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and I’m going take it and run with it.”

Cosart’s parents are vacationing in San Diego and began to hear rumors he was being traded to Houston.

“They heard my name pop up and finally saw it up there [on TV],” he said. “They were kind of shocked, but after the shock wears off you get excited. I heard from a lot of friends and family. I turned my phone off last night about 3 a.m.”

Cosart, 21,was drafted in the 38th round of the 2008 Draft but signed with the Phillies with an over-slot deal instead of heading to Missouri. He’s always had electric stuff, but he had trouble staying healthy over his first couple of years and threw just 95 2/3 innings from 2009 to ’10.

In 2009, he had back and shoulder problems. In 2010, his season ended in June because of a bad elbow. Even in limited time, though, he showed what he can do, striking out 102 and walking just 23 in that span.  Cosart has one of the better fastballs in the Minors, and it was on display at this year’s Futures Game, when he was touching 98 mph.

Cosart said he’s healthy. He was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) at Class A Clearwater.

“I’ve had some really minor little injuries and I never wanted to have that label,” he said. “I worked really hard this last offseason to get in shape for the season. It worked out well and I know I’m starting to let it go, get after it. I feel like I’m close to where I need to be.”

When he heard he was traded, he texted J.D. Martinez and told him he’d be joining him in Corpus Christi. He didn’t know at the time Martinez was headed to the Major Leagues in the wake of the Pence trade. Cosart and Martinez played against each other several times last year in Class A Lexington and talked a lot.

Not only is Cosart joining the Astros, but he’s moving up a level in an organization that’s showing increasing willingness to promote young prospects. Jordan Lyles in the Majors at 20 years old, and Jose Altuve and Martinez were promoted from Double-A.

Suddenly, Cosart is much closer to reaching the Major Leagues.

“It doesn’t matter what team, but now that I’m with my hometown team it’s unbelievable,” he said. “And the fact they’re rebuilding and they have a lot of young guys and there’s an opportunity. I want to pitch in the big leagues and I want to win. There Astros are going into that mode and they want to win with younger guys. It shows a lot about the organization’s belief in young guys and giving younger guys a chance, something the Phillies really didn’t need to do.”

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