Cosart looking to change behind his changeup

Pitching coach Hernandez challenging Marlins starter to use pitch in games

Cosart looking to change behind his changeup

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Although he knew it was something he needed to work on, Jarred Cosart never threw his changeup much in games. He couldn't get the pitch to feel comfortable in his hand, and he used it only about four percent of the time last season.

Looking for a new approach, Cosart turned to his Marlins teammate, fellow right-hander Henderson Alvarez. While Cosart didn't copy Alvarez's grip, their conversation led Cosart to move his fingers to a different position on the ball, one that works better for him. He took the revamped offering into his second Grapefruit League start Thursday against the Twins, and came away encouraged.

"It's going to be a huge pitch for me," said Cosart, who gave up three runs over two innings in a 7-6 loss at Hammond Stadium. "When we're getting into late-game situations in the sixth, seventh inning, [and] if I get in a 2-0 count, I can just throw one for a strike and get a ground ball to get out of the inning, stuff like that. I'm really happy with the progress."

Despite throwing almost all cutters and curveballs, Cosart has posted a 3.26 ERA over his first 40 Major League starts. That includes a 2.39 mark in 10 outings after the Astros traded him to the Marlins last July 31.

But with Miami counting on Cosart to figure prominently in its rotation this year, it could be crucial for the 24-year-old to develop a reliable third option. He had no trouble throwing the change while playing catch in the offseason or during bullpen sessions, but pitching coach Chuck Hernandez challenged him to take it into a game, setting a target of between five and 10 for Thursday.

"They've been telling me for years to keep working on it, and I have, but when you get in a game situation, you go back to what you know," Cosart said. "But Chuck said, 'If you want to take that next step, start throwing it,' and Spring Training is the best time.

"You get out here, and Joe Mauer's in the box and it's kind of like, 'Hmmm, do I really want to do this?' I told myself today, 'You've got to throw it. Throw the results out the window.'"

Cosart said he went to the pitch five or six times on Thursday, getting a couple of swinging strikes and giving up a single. Most importantly, he felt he was able to get "a lot of good action" on the pitch, and he plans to use it more in coming outings.

"It's another weapon for him," manager Mike Redmond said. "I think it's great. It's a great pitch. As you can see, in the big leagues, you can't just fire heaters at guys. You've got to have offspeed pitches, and you have to have an out pitch to get these guys out. The more consistent those pitches are, the better he is."

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.