Jarred Cosart dazzles in Major League debut against the Rays

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23-year-old Astros pitching prospect Jarred Cosart made his Major League debut tonight against the Rays. He carried a no-hit bid into the seventh inning, losing it on a one-out single to right field by Ben Zobrist. He went eight-plus innings, shutting out the Rays and out-dueling reigning AL Cy Young award winner David Price.

Throughout the game, Cosart looked sharp and in control. Rays hitters had a tough time squaring him up as he induced grounder after grounder (12 of his 16 batted balls out were on the ground). After Cosart lost the no-hit bid, the Astros had Lucas Harrell warm up in the bullpen just in case, but with 91 pitches and three consecutive right-handed hitters due up in the ninth inning, Cosart was allowed to take the hill to complete the gem. He walked Kelly Johnson to lead off the inning and was relieved by closer Jose Veras.

Veras promptly induced a 6-4-3 double play from Yunel Escobar. Following a throwing error by shortstop Jake Elmore, Luke Scott won a nine-pitch at-bat with a line drive RBI single to center. Veras struck out Evan Longoria looking to end the game, sealing an Astros 2-1 victory.

The Astros acquired Cosart, along with Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana from the Phillies in the Hunter Pence trade back on July 29, 2011.

Some trivia about Cosart’s debut:

Cosart was attempting to become the first pitcher since Bumpus Jones in 1892 to throw a no-hitter in his Major League debut. The Astros had planned to option him back to the Minors after his start tonight, and likely will still do so even despite the impressive outing as they wouldn’t need him again until July 23.

MLB to crack down on sign stealing

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We’ve had a couple of notable incidents of sign stealing in Major League Baseball over the past couple of years. Most famously, the Red Sox were found to be using Apple Watches of all things to relay signs spied via video feed. Sports Illustrated reported yesterday that there have been other less-publicized and unpublicized incidents as well, mostly with in-house TV cameras — as opposed to network TV cameras — stationed in the outfield and trained on catchers, for the specific purpose of stealing signs.

As such, SI reports, Major League Baseball is cracking down beginning this year. Within the next couple weeks an already-drafted and circulated rule will take effect which will (a) ban in-house outfield cameras from foul pole to foul pole; (b) will limit live broadcasts available to teams to the team’s replay official only, and the replay official will be watched by a league official to keep them from relaying signs to the team; and (c) other TV monitors that are available to the clubs will be on an eight-second delay to prevent real-time sign stealing. There will likewise be limits on TV monitors showing the game feed in certain places like tunnels and clubhouses.

Penalties for violation of the rules will include the forfeiting of draft picks and/or international spending money. General managers will have to sign a document in which they swear they know of know sign-stealing schemes.

As was the case when the Apple Watch incident came up, there will not be any new rules regarding old fashioned sign stealing by runners on second base or what have you, as that is viewed as part of the game. Only the technology-aided sign stealing that has become more prominent in recent years — but which has, of course, existed in other forms for a very, very long time — is subject to the crackdown.

While gamesmanship of one form or another has always been part of baseball, the current wave of sign-stealing is seen as a pace-of-play issue just as much as a fairness issue. Because of the actual sign-stealing — and because of paranoia that any opponent could be stealing signs — clubs have gone to far more elaborate and constantly changing sign protocols. This requires mound meetings and pitchers coming off the rubber in order to re-start the increasingly complex series of signs from dugout to catcher and from catcher to pitcher.

Now, presumably, with these new rules coming online, teams will figure out a new way to cheat. It’s baseball, after all. It’s in their DNA.