Jarred Cosart pitched a perfect inning in the Florida State League All-Star Game last month and he's going to get a chance to do the same in the Futures Game a week from Sunday in Phoenix.
Those two things are good indications that the best pitching prospect in the Phillies organization is having a fine season with single-A Clearwater.
An even better sign, however, is the number of innings Cosart has pitched for the Threshers. That total stood at 87 after his start Friday, and assistant general manager Chuck LaMar cares a lot more about that number than Cosart's 6-6 record and 3.10 ERA.
"That's the most important stat to look for with Jarred Cosart," LaMar said. "He has never pitched a full year without being hurt. He only had an arm problem one time, but there has always been something that has kept him from being completely healthy."
A year ago around this time, Cosart's season at single-A Lakewood ended because of a sprained right elbow. In 14 starts, he had gone 7-3 with a 3.79 ERA and struck out 77 batters in 711/3 innings, so the proof that he could pitch was on display. But the key for any developing pitcher is pitching.
"I told Chuck and the entire organization that first and foremost I wanted to get through this season healthy," Cosart said by phone from Clearwater. "I've got 80-plus innings this year already and I only had 71 last year. I've never had surgery or anything like that, but I had these little injuries that I attributed to being a position player in high school. I was never used to throwing as much as I did once I turned professional. I really think going through the rehab last year helped me mentally and physically."
Cosart, 21, is still learning to pitch, as evidenced by the roller-coaster ride his season has been. He went 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in April, 4-0 with a 1.95 ERA in May, and 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA in June.
"He missed a lot last year because of the tender arm," LaMar said. "It was a real credit to him that he was able to make the jump to Clearwater with the limited time he has pitched, but like any power pitcher the learning process is ongoing."
Cosart often lights up the radar gun at 95 to 97 m.p.h., but he wants to become more consistent with his off-speed pitches. He has a nasty breaking ball and a change-up that is a work in progress.
"Right now, I'm working to keep my arm speed up on my off-speed pitches," he said. "When I slow down my arm on my curveball and change-up, I get hit. When I've had a good feel for all three of my pitches on both sides of the plate, that is when I have done well."
Cosart is on a staff of pitchers who have done well this season. Jonathan Pettibone, Trevor May, and Julio Rodriguez also pitched perfect innings in the FSL All-Star Game.
"We feel like we're one of the best pitching staffs in the minor leagues," Cosart said. "By us going out there and all throwing a perfect inning, we couldn't have represented the Phillies any better."
Now, with the July 31 trade deadline looming, it's possible that one or more of those talented arms at Clearwater will have to be sacrificed to add stretch-drive help for the big-league team. Cosart is probably the most untouchable of the group, but he said all the Threshers are aware what time of year it is.
"We know if anything happens it's more than likely going to come from here, because we have a lot of prospects here," Cosart said. "We're all pretty close here and I know there is no other organization I'd rather be with right now than the Phillies. I'd love to pitch at Citizens Bank Park because I know it's amazing there."
(High A, 42-36 overall, 3-6 second half, sixth place, Florida State League North Division)
Jiwan James, who spent his first minor-league season as a pitcher in 2007, entered the weekend hitting .260 with 13 doubles, five triples, three home runs, 20 RBIs, and 44 runs scored. Those are not eye-popping numbers, but assistant general manager Chuck LaMar is pleased with the progress the 22-year-old centerfielder is making.
"He made the jump to the Florida State League and has done a solid job," LaMar said. "He hasn't been a position player that long and he continues to improve. He's a great makeup kid who comes to play every day."
The Phillies are going to have to decide if they want James to continue switch-hitting. He has batted .220 with three extra-base hits (all doubles) as a righthanded hitter, and .276 with 18 extra-base hits from the left side.
(AA, 40-40, fourth place, Eastern League Eastern Division)
There has been plenty of talk about Jimmy Rollins' future in Philadelphia beyond this season and, as we've pointed out in this space before, it could depend on Freddy Galvis' development at Reading. Galvis, 21, went into the weekend hitting .265 with 13 doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 25 RBIs, and 47 runs scored. Those are by far the best offensive numbers of his career at this point in a season.
"This has been the best year in Freddy's development," LaMar said.
That said, Galvis has 13 errors in 77 games. Rollins has never made more than 14 errors in a season, and the last time he made more than 12 in a season was 2007.
(AAA, 47-34, first place, International League North Division)
Outfielder John Mayberry Jr. hit .125 in his first 14 games after being optioned to triple A by the Phillies last month. In his next 11 games, however, he batted .370 with five doubles, two home runs, and seven RBIs, raising his overall average to .284.
"You hope when they get sent down that they're still in that mode where they want to improve," LaMar said. "In John's case, that is what he has done every time he has been sent out. He is always trying to show the organization that he is one of the top 25 who belongs on the roster."
(Low A, 37-40 overall, 4-5 second half, seventh place, South Atlantic League Northern Division)
The Phillies' philosophy is to challenge young pitching prospects by sending them to face older competition in the South Atlantic League in the hopes that they will mature as the season wears on.
It appears to be paying off for Ervis Manzanillo and Jesse Biddle, the two 19-year-old lefties who are considered the best pitching prospects at Lakewood.
Manzanillo has struggled much of the year, but is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in his last three starts.
(Rookie ball, 8-7, fourth place, New York-Penn League Pinckney Division)
Third baseman Maikel Franco, an 18-year-old third baseman from the Dominican Republic, could end up playing in Lakewood before the summer is over, especially if he continues his hot start.
Through 14 games, Franco was hitting .340 with a home run and 10 RBIs.
"He's a good defender at third base," LaMar said. "There were a lot of internal talks about pushing him to Lakewood at the start of the season, but we didn't want to put him in over his head because he's a little bit of a free swinger. He is one of our best minor-league hitting prospects."
- Bob Brookover