Almost two years after the Hunter Pence trade, Astros fans were still waiting for the payoff. Then… on July 12, 2013, 23-year old right-hander Jarred Cosart made his long awaited big league debut. And what a debut it was!
Cosart would keep the Tampa Bay Rays out of the hit column until a 1-out single in the seventh inning by Ben Zobrist. He would then coax a double-play grounder off the bat of Evan Longoria to get out of the inning. After another single and another double-play in the eighth, Cosart would walk the first batter in the ninth before exiting in favor of closer Jose Veras.
When all was said and done, Cosart had pitched eight innings of 2-hit shutout baseball, outdueling reigning Cy Young Award winner David Price to pick up the win in a 2-1 Astros victory.
It would prove to be Cosart’s only win of the season — but not for a lack of trying. Jarred would make a total of ten big league starts before being shut down in early September. He would allow two runs or fewer in eight of those starts. Cosart would finish the season with a 1.95 ERA and a .218 BAA in sixty big league innings.
Despite those outstanding numbers, Cosart would have his detractors. A 4.35 FIP and a 33/35 strikeout-to-walk ratio would suggest that the youngster from nearby League City was riding a lucky streak. That may be true to a certain extent but Cosart’s peripheral statistics improved when he pitched with runners on base. An optimist might see that as a sign that Cosart is a fierce competitor who performs better under pressure.
Either way, I found Cosart’s “luck” in the big leagues to be a bit ironic. Although he had long been considered a highly polished prospect with an arsenal of plus pitches, Cosart never put up gaudy numbers in the minor leagues. In fact, his numbers were quite disappointing and many of us began to wonder if he had been over-hyped. Suddenly, the proverbial shoe was on the other foot. The tables had turned — so to speak.
Obviously 60 innings is still a small sample size and we shouldn’t make too much out of Cosart’s early performance. But the Astros seem to have seen enough to make Cosart a favorite for a spot near the top of the 2014 starting rotation. Given the overall talent level of this team, he’s sure to experience some struggles along the way. But Astros fans remain excited at the idea that Cosart will be the first of three key contributors acquired in exchange for one of our old favorites back in July of 2011.