Jarred Cosart got up limping after taking a tumble in the first inning of his first outing of the spring, and twice the trainer came out to the mound to check on him.
But Cosart wasn’t about to give up the ball.
Not after what he went through last year, a bust of a season in which dizziness from vertigo made it a challenge to see straight, much less pitch.
No, Cosart told all those concerned with his well-being on Friday that he wasn’t about to budge from that mound.
“I told them if they took me out, I was going to freak out,” Cosart said.
And so Cosart completed his one and only inning and, despite his fielding mishap that left him with a bruised right calf that isn’t believed to be serious, called the outing a rousing success.
Cosart faced five batters during an adventurous 27-pitch inning in which he struck out three and also took a spill while trying to cover third base after giving up a triple.
“I don’t think I’ve punched out the side since high school,” he said.
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Cosart had reasons to be ecstatic.
“I’m just happy to not be dizzy on the mound,” he said, referring to a 2015 season in which he managed only 13 starts, going 2-5 with a 4.52 ERA as he battled vertigo. “That’s the biggest relief.”
But it was a new delivery that excited him most.
Cosart said Jim Benedict, the Marlins’ new roving pitching coordinator, and pitching coach Juan Nieves have been working with him on a new delivery intended to create more of a downward plane on his fastball.
“I haven’t missed a lot of bats in the past with my fastball,” Cosart said. “Usually, because I’ve been up in the zone. I was a contact guy. Now with the added angle, I saw a lot more swings and misses [on Friday], bad swings, at fastballs in the zone, simply because they were down.”
If successful, the adjustment could have major implications for Cosart. It could win him a spot in the Marlins’ starting rotation to start the season. Cosart is among a handful of contenders vying for two openings on the five-man staff.
“I’d like to think that I have a spot,” Cosart said. “But, apparently, it’s been made known by the front office that there’s two up for grabs. I have confidence in myself that I’m going to win one of those jobs.”
First, though, Cosart must convince the Marlins’ decision-makers that he’s recovered from his 2015 setbacks, that he’s the same pitcher he was the year before when they acquired him in a midseason trade with Houston.
Cosart went 4-4 with a nifty 2.39 ERA in 10 starts after joining the Marlins that year and was a fixture in the rotation to start 2015.
But after struggling in seven starts, he landed on the disabled list with what proved to be vertigo. Though doctors solved the problem, he was never able to get back on track.
Now he’s starting over again — with a new delivery designed for him by Benedict, who had worked previously with the Pittsburgh Pirates and was credited with much of their recent pitching success.
“I’ve worked on it every day since I got here,” Cosart said. “[Benedict] said that it was a big project with [Pirates ace] Gerrit Cole when he got drafted, to get the downward explosion of the fastball. It’s been kind of exciting. But I didn’t want to jump too quick until I faced hitters on another team.”
Cosart did that Friday for the first time when the Marlins faced the Nationals, striking out the first two hitters he faced before giving up the triple and walking the next batter. But he recovered to strike out the fifth batter he faced to end the inning.
“It’s reinforcing that it’s working,” he said. “I think [the three strikeouts] shows that something’s different.”
Justin Maxwell’s three-run homer in the ninth gave the Marlins a 5-4 win over the Nationals for Miami’s first Grapefruit League victory.
It was the second home run in two days for Maxwell.
In their other split-squad game on Friday, the Marlins played to a 4-4 tie with the Mets in Port St. Lucie.
In Jupiter, Adam Conley made his spring debut for the Marlins, giving up one run in two innings. In Port St. Lucie, Justin Nicolino worked two scoreless innings in his start against the Mets.
Conley and Nicolino are among a group of pitchers, along with Cosart, Edwin Jackson and David Phelps, battling for two open spots in the Marlins’ rotation.
▪ Saturday: Marlins LHP Wei-Yin Chen vs. St. Louis Cardinals LHP Marco Gonzalez, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.