PHOENIX While Cole Hamels and Carlos Ruiz formed the starting battery that helped the Phillies win their 57th game of the season Sunday in Philadelphia, a potential Phils battery of the future helped Major League Baseball kick off festivities for All-Star week.
And they did it quite impressively.
Pitcher Jarred Cosart and catcher Sabastian Valle, both members of the Single A Clearwater Threshers, shined in Sundays Futures Game, the annual showcase of the games top prospects, at Chase Field, site of Tuesday nights All-Star Game.
Cosart was the winning pitcher as the USA team rallied for a 6-4 victory over the World team in a nationally televised game.
Afterward, the 21-year-old Texan sat in front of his locker and scrolled through 52 -- yes, 52 -- text messages that had arrived after he pitched a scoreless eighth inning.
It was awesome, Cosart said of the experience. I never had an adrenaline rush like that. That first step out of the bullpen I think I stopped breathing. My heart was pounding. But once I threw that first pitch, everything was normal.
Cosart entered the game with his team down a run. He faced three batters and retired all of them, two on strikeouts. Cosart needed just 10 pitches to get through the frame, not exactly Juan Perez kind of stuff, but pretty good just the same. Eight of Cosarts pitches were strikes and his fastball reached 98 mph.
Before the game, Valle, a Mexico native who played for the World team, joked about trying to hit Cosart hard if he got the chance to face him. Valle was in the on-deck circle when Cosart got his second strikeout to end the top of the eighth.
Valle left his mark on the game. He tied the game with a double in the sixth inning and scored the go-ahead run for the World team before the USA team rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Valle is having a strong season for Clearwater. After missing time earlier this season with a thumb injury and a concussion, he is hitting .324 with three homers and 28 RBIs in 54 games. A rock-solid 6-1, 185-pounder, Valle, who turns 21 on July 24, is the Phillies top catching prospect. In Clearwater, he handles a prospect-laden pitching staff that includes Cosart, Trevor May, Jonathan Pettibone, Brody Colvin and Julio Rodriguez. Cosart, May, Pettibone and Rodriguez all pitched in the Florida State League All-Star Game last month.
Cosart earned his way to another feature event Sunday. The electric-arm righthander was selected to play in the Futures Game last season, but was a late scratch due to a strained right elbow.
It was disappointing but also motivating at the same time, he said of missing last years event. I wanted to get back here.
Cosart strained his ulnar collateral ligament last summer. Thats the same ligament that gets reconstructed during Tommy John surgery. Cosart visited Dr. James Andrews, one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the land. Andrews said surgery was not necessary, and Cosart breathed a sigh of relief.
I was thankful every day that I didnt have to have surgery, he said. Any time you go to the doctors office youre worried. Doctor Andrews is the best so I took his word. I rehabbed hard and got after it and it has come along great.
Cosart was a 38th round pick in the fertile 2008 draft that has already given the Phils Mike Stutes and Vance Worley. The Phils signed him just hours before losing his rights in Aug. 2008. Cosart was headed to the University of Missouri before the Phillies signed him for 550,000. Cosart was playing in an American Legion tournament while Phillies scouts struck the deal with his father in the stands.
Cosart, who stands 6-3, is 7-6 with a 3.23 ERA for Clearwater. He said he has averaged 95 mph on his fastball and has hit 99. He has a hard-dropping curveball and an improving changeup. If it all comes together for Cosart, this wont be the last time he pitches in a big-league ballpark. He projects as a front-line starter.
Its amazing to be here this year with all these guys, said Cosart, looking around the clubhouse at Chase Field. He lockered next to Bryce Harper, the consensus top prospect in baseball and first pick of the Washington Nationals in last years draft.
Being in a big-league locker room I want to do this every day, Cosart said.
If Cosart makes it to the majors, he could have some company from the Clearwater staff. May, Pettibone and Colvin all project as big-league starters and Rodriguez has opened a lot of eyes this season.
But the next great Phillies rotation could be percolating in Clearwater.
We look at that staff, Cosart said of the Phillies rotation. Thats what wed like to do.
Cosart, Pettibone (2.60), May (3.22) and Rodriguez (3.44) all rank in the top 14 in ERA in the Florida State League. Colvin, whose stuff compares to Cosarts, was slowed earlier this season by a bad back.
No one gets a better look at Clearwaters staff than Valle.
Its very, very good, he said through a translator.
Valle was thrilled to be selected to play in the Futures Game. Five members of his family made the eight-hour drive to Phoenix from his hometown of Los Mochis in Mexico to see the game.
On Monday, Cosart and Valle will return to Florida where they will be teammates again. They have showed their wares in the Futures Game. Now they go back to being a future Phillies battery.
Back to the real world, Cosart said. Go back, work hard, and hopefully get back here soon.
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