Every season since he went from prep to pro in 2009, Corpus Christi's Jarred Cosart has suffered a blister on his pitching hand. The past couple of years, the skin on his middle finger bothered him. Now it's the thumb giving him difficulty.
"To me, it's the most frustrating injury to deal with," said Cosart, who missed two starts because of the latest epidermis-related ailment. "The training staff seems to think it's because I'm a high-velocity guy and [therefore] get a lot of friction on the seams -- I throw a spike curveball with my thumb on the seam when it breaks off. It also feels like 100 percent humidity out here. All that doesn't help."
What does help: Dipping his digits into a rice bucket, then rubbing on dry-grip balm. Entering his comeback outing Sunday, these methods worked wonders.
Houston's No. 2 prospect completed five scoreless innings following a 17-day layoff in the Double-A Hooks' 5-3 win over the visiting Frisco RoughRiders.
Cosart (1-0) scattered four hits, struck out four and recorded six outs on the ground. He threw 51 of his 74 pitches for strikes and would have continued in sixth inning -- his pitch count was about 85 -- if not for the Hooks' four-run rally in the bottom of the fifth.
"I was just happy to be out there," he said. "Most [meaningful] was that I was able to make it through five with the finger staying closed."
Cosart yielded consecutive singles to Chris McGuinness and Alex Buchholz to start the second inning, but rebounded with a groundball double play.
"I located my fastball down and away and he rolled it over the shortstop," Cosart explained. "My catcher, Chris Wallace, and I had a plan -- they swung early a lot the last couple games -- and we were on the same page the whole game. I give my batterymate the credit.
"The four hits never left the ground. They were legitimate hits, but they never left the ground."
The third, Jose Felix's single in the third, preceded Cosart striking out four batters -- including Texas' No. 1 and 3 prospects Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt -- over a five-batter span. The 21-year-old right-hander said his curveball, sharp from the second frame forward, was integral to that success.
"I know those guys. I played against Profar in the Futures Game, and I have read about Olt and have teammates who played with him in the [Arizona] Fall League. I know they're great hitters, but as a pitcher, you can never give a hitter too much credit," Cosart said. "With hitters like that, you have to get ahead. I was able to do that: fastball, curveball, fastball to 'Prof' and two breaking balls and a fastball away to Olt."
Cosart yielded one more base knock, to Ryan Strausbourger in the fifth, but left the game unmarred.
Cosart held Northwest Arkansas scoreless for 4 1/3 innings on Opening Day, April 5, but walked three batters.
"I'm really happy with the no walks today," he said. "I was a little sporadic with the control in my first start."
A 38th-round Phillies draftee in 2008 before Philadelphia sent him and three others to Houston in the July 2011 trade involving All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence, Cosart compiled a 4.17 ERA in seven starts at Corpus Christi, his first in the Astros organization.
With his dexterity now undeterred, what does Cosart have planned for 2012?
"We want to make the playoffs. They're has been a knock on the Astros about having a weak Minor League system, but we have a good club," he said. "The No. 1 goal is to stay healthy, then pitch in the big leagues down the road."
Following Cosart's exit, Olt and Profar broke out against reliever Adalberto Flores in the eighth. Profar doubled and scored on Olt's two-run homer, his fourth of the season.
RoughRiders starter Justin Grimm (3-1) allowed five runs on nine hits over 4 1/3 frames. Grimm had given up just one run on seven hits over his first three starts.