His arm is strong. His mind is clear. His delivery is new and — the Marlins are hoping — improved. About the only tiny imperfection that pitcher Jarred Cosart is open to discussing is the chip on his shoulder.
It was put there by the Marlins at the onset of spring training when they didn’t guarantee Cosart a spot in their starting rotation, lumping him in with four or five other contenders for two open spots.
And that troubled him. He thought he deserved better.
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me,” Cosart said. “I felt a little slap in the face. I would have thought I would have had a leg up on guys [with less major-league experience]. But that’s not my decision. It might have been a wake-up call for me.”
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If that was the Marlins’ intention, it seems to be working.
His Saturday back field outing aside, when Cosart spent much of the afternoon experimenting with his changeup and curve against Mets minor-league hitters, he has been outstanding this spring — so much so that it would be a surprise if he isn’t in the Marlins’ rotation at season’s start.
He hasn’t allowed a run in 9 2/3 innings.
“Nothing not to like from Jarred this spring,” manager Don Mattingly said.
Mattingly hasn’t announced which two pitchers will join Jose Fernandez, Wei-Yin Chen and Tom Koehler in the five-man rotation. But it appears likely that those jobs will go to Cosart and left-hander Adam Conley.
For Cosart, it could mark a turnaround from a disastrous 2015 season in which his bouts with dizziness were eventually diagnosed as vertigo, limiting him to only 13 starts, a 2-5 record and 4.52 ERA.
It certainly wasn’t what the Marlins were expecting after acquiring him from the Astros the previous season and after watching him go 4-4 with a 2.39 ERA in his 10 starts with them after the deal.
Now, though, the vertigo is behind him and the Marlins, under the tutelage of pitching coaches Juan Nieves and Jim Benedict, are hoping for a bounce-back season. It’s why, when the Marlins went to Kissimmee on Saturday to face the Astros, the two coaches remained behind to watch Cosart pitch in a minor-league game.
“We’re trying to get his physical gifts out,” Benedict said between innings while seated in a golf cart behind the backstop screen. “I know that we’ve got to try to make him achieve what he’s capable of doing.”
And the Marlins believe Cosart can do a lot.
Before boarding the bus to Kissimmee, Mattingly went so far as to declare Cosart as a “key” to the Marlins’ success this season.
“You can count on Jose is Jose,” Mattingly said of Fernandez. “Chen’s got a pretty good track record. Tommy’s [Koehler] starting to form a track record.”
Cosart is a different story. He’s blessed with talent, but the results have been inconsistent.
“With Jarred, it’s been a guy with really good stuff, but just hasn’t quite panned out — some of it no fault of his own,” Mattingly said, referring to Cosart’s vertigo problems last season.
With the vertigo now a thing of the past, Cosart said he has never felt more confident.
“It’s just great to feel normal, like I did from the first day I stepped on a baseball field,” he said. “I guess it’s kind of like a load off your back.”
Throw in a “new delivery, new mind-set,” and Cosart is hungering to add his name in the rotation.
“I came in with head down to camp, didn’t say much,” Cosart said or his determination heading into spring training. “I just wanted to compete and pitch. Things got a little easier when [Nieves and Benedict] got their hands on me and made pitching a lot easier for me.
“The bump in the road last year is what it is. But that’s over. I know what I can do. It’s a lot easier being positive.”
▪ Sunday: Marlins RHP Jose Fernandez vs. Cardinals LHP Jaime Garcia, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
▪ Monday: Marlins LHP Chris Narveson at Nationals (to be announced), 1:05 p.m., Viera