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Cosart ready for any role Astros ask him to fill

HOUSTON -- Jarred Cosart wants to do whatever he can to make the Major League roster next year, so when Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow floated the idea during the Winter Meetings that Cosart could be moved to closer, the right-hander took notice.

Last week's trade that sent relief pitcher Wilton Lopez, who finished this past season as Houston's closer, to the Rockies for starting pitcher Alex White and a Minor League pitcher has left a void at closer for the Astros. It's still expected they will try to fill the role externally, but Cosart was mentioned as an internal candidate if they decide to go that route.

Cosart, who is ranked No. 4 among the Top 20 Astros prospects, is coming to Major League camp for the first time next year planning to compete for a spot in the rotation, but he's open to closing.

"I've actually never done it, but I've messed around with it in All-Star games and stuff while pitching late in a couple of close games, and it's fun," Cosart said. "It's a different aspect. For me, I'm predominantly a guy that pitches off my fastball, so I think that would be fun."

Some scouts have forecast Cosart would eventually wind up in the bullpen because of his fastball, but the Astros will try to get as much out of him as a starter before making any switch. He certainly has the stuff to pitch late in games.

"That would be to my strong suit with the stuff I have," Cosart said. "Basically, it comes down to whatever I think I need to do to get to the big leagues, whether it's closer first and then starting, or they just want me to close ... it doesn't matter to me. I want to help the team whatever way possible. I'm open for anything."

Cosart possesses one of the best fastballs in the system, touching 99 mph in the Arizona Fall League last month. The Astros sent him there to work on his secondary stuff, using his curveball and changeup when behind in counts.

His numbers in Arizona weren't great -- 0-3, 6.50 ERA in six starts -- but the Astros weren't concerned about the numbers.

"They weren't worried about my fastball as they were the other two pitches and throwing them in all counts," Cosart said. "It worked out. My numbers looked not good, but I was very happy with the development process out there. There was only one game that was completely terrible, but I was able to work on a lot of stuff."

Cosart and first baseman Jonathan Singleton were the centerpieces of the Hunter Pence trade with the Phillies n 2011, a deal that brought Cosart to the team he grew up rooting for. He split this past season between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Oklahoma City but battled blister problems. He finished strong, though, allowing no earned runs in five of his final 10 starts.

The Astros have increased the competition in the rotation by adding Philip Humber and White to the mix, with Cosart, Dallas Keuchel and Edgar Gonzalez among those also battling for one of the final two spots in the rotation.

Cosart has never been short on confidence, and the prospect believes he has the right mentality to be a closer if he's asked.

"Early in my career, they just constantly told me, 'You need to tone it down. You're going out there trying to throw 100 mph in the first inning and you still have to pitch seven innings,'" Cosart said. "I definitely have it in there that if I come in and know I have to get three guys out, I'm definitely capable of doing that.

"Either way, there's probably going to be more competition than there's ever been in Astros camp since who knows when. I'm in there to win a job. I don't care if it's closer, long relief, short relief or starter. The long-term goal is you want to get there and stick there. I want to come into Spring Training and make a good impression and get my foot in the door and have a long career, hopefully all with Houston."

Houston Astros, Jarred Cosart