LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jarred Cosart is still at the point in his career where he's learning to control his emotions on the mound. It's easy to get excited when you get the ball with a chance to face Prince Fielder and Torii Hunter to show management what you can do.
Cosart, the Astros' top-ranked pitching prospect, wasn't able to harness his emotions or his control in his first spring start on Monday at Joker Marchant Stadium, allowing four hits, three runs and four walks in two-plus innings against the Tigers. It was an opportunity to take a step forward in the race to make the club, but Cosart isn't making too much of one rough outing.
"I know I've got five, six, seven more times out before Spring Training is over," he said. "I have to put this one behind me. Any time I can make an impression with the coaching staff and front office -- whoever happens to be here -- it's huge for me. I can take some positives, but I know for the most part what I need to work on, which is going to be huge for me going forward."
Cosart, 22, came to camp with an explosive fastball and hopes of making the Opening Day rotation. The truth is, he's a long shot considering he's barely gotten his feet wet at Triple-A, and the Astros added depth to the starting rotation by bringing in fellow right-handers Philip Humber, John Ely, Brad Peacock and Alex White along with left-hander Erik Bedard.
Cosart muddled through 48 pitches and managed to throw only 23 in the strike zone against the Tigers. Cosart retired Austin Jackson to start the game, then allowed the next five batters to reach on three walks and two singles. He was throwing 96, 97 mph in the first inning, but admitted he was working too fast.
"A lot of times your adrenaline gets going and you want to go harder and harder and harder," manager Bo Porter said, "And as he pitches more and more, that maturation is going to take place and he's going to settle in and pull back a little bit, and be able to make more quality pitches than trying to go faster. I think he's going to do fine. The competition is fueling him."
After breezing through a quick second inning, Andy Dirks and Prince Fielder began the third with ground-ball singles and Cosart's day was over after walking Alex Avila. Velocity is great, but location is the key.
"That's pretty much the story," Cosart said. "You can't do much when you walk people. It was tough today. I thought I had it figured out in the second, but then I went out in the third inning and I got ahead of two hitters, and I didn't put them away."
Porter put both hands on Cosart's shoulders when removing him from the game, taking as much time as he could to offer advice.
"He just said as Spring Training goes on and I get older -- because I pitch with a lot of energy -- I'm going to learn how to tone that down," Cosart said. "The whole problem today is I couldn't slow down my delivery and that's a lot of how I pitch -- aggressive. When things get going I get going, and he just said he thinks I have an opportunity to win a lot of games. We'll work on it throughout Spring Training and my career. You've just got to harness that energy I pitch with."
Last year, Cosart made 15 starts at Double-A Corpus Christi and then pitched in six games (five starts) at Oklahoma City while battling blister problems. He went a combined 6-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 114 2/3 innings, allowing 109 hits and striking out 92 batters.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow loves Cosart's stuff, but says he's going to make the best decision about where Cosart starts the season for the organization. But Cosart is going to get a long look in camp this year.
"If that means he should be on the club this year, we'll make that decision," Luhnow said. "We're not going to rule anything out at this point. We do have depth and part of the advantage of having depth is not pushing a player too far, too fast before they're ready. As he gets deeper into Spring Training and he faces the 'A' lineup more and more and goes deeper into games, we'll get a better feel where he is."
All the pitchers Cosart is competing against for one of the final spots in the rotation have big league experience, so Cosart understands the challenge ahead. But he welcomes the competition and the good things that can come from a healthy rivalry.
"All of us, we've maintained a friendship throughout this entire time," he said. "Everybody talks about it's a good competition and usually during competition you don't like each other, but we keep an ongoing friendly relationship and what happens, happens."