KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Top-ranked pitching prospect Jarred Cosart was one of four Astros pitchers optioned to Minor League camp Wednesday, trimming Houston's camp roster to 49. The club also optioned right-handers Ross Seaton and Jose Cisnero, as well as left-hander Brett Oberholtzer.
Cosart -- the Astros' No. 4 overall prospect -- came into camp with hopes of cracking the Opening Day rotation, but struggled, in large part, due to a lack of control.
The 22-year-old right-hander allowed seven earned runs over 7 2/3 spring innings while issuing six walks and hitting two batters in his four appearances. In his lone start last Monday against the Tigers, Cosart was tagged for three runs on four hits and four walks in two-plus innings.
"Jarred impressed us all during camp," assistant general manager David Stearns said. "Obviously he had some very strong outings, and some other outings where his command got away from him a little bit. But he's a guy who's going to be a very big part of our future, we know that and he knows that."
Cosart was a long shot to be part of the Astros' Opening Day rotation, considering he has made just six appearances at the Triple-A level and Houston restocked its pitching staff this offseason with some experienced arms.
Last year, Cosart made 15 starts at Double-A Corpus Christi before his midseason promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Between the two, he went a combined 6-7 with a 3.30 ERA in 114 2/3 innings, allowing 109 hits, striking out 92 batters and walking 51.
Along with Cosart's lack of upper-level experience, the Astros this offseason brought in fellow right-handers Philip Humber, John Ely, Brad Peacock and Alex White, along with left-hander Erik Bedard, making for an even more difficult path for Cosart.
"At this point of Spring Training, with all our guys, innings become a premium," Stearns said. "The guys who are a little bit more likely to make the roster this year are going to get stretched out, so it was time to get Jarred down to Minor League camp, so he could get stretched out and get ready for the Minor League season."
As for the other three pitchers cut Wednesday -- Seaton, Cisnero and Oberholtzer -- it was simply a matter of racking up more experience in the Minors and fine-tuning their mechanics.
"For all of them, it's just continuing to improve their approach and gain more game experience against upper-level talent," Stearns said. "These are still young guys, all of them, with limited Minor League experience. They've all got very good arms, they've all got promising futures, but they still need time to gain some seasoning in the Minor Leagues."
Though it's unclear when Cosart might make his Major League debut, Stearns didn't rule out a potential callup as early as this season. While injuries and performances within the Major League rotation could ultimately play a role, Cosart remains in control of his own future even after a trying spring.
"It's tough to put timetables on all these things, as we told Jarred," Stearns said. "He's going to let us know when he's ready, and when he's ready, he's going to be up here."
Bedard tests himself on mound with positive results
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Left-hander Erik Bedard returned to the mound Wednesday, pitching a scoreless fifth inning in the Astros' 9-7 loss to the Nationals.
Bedard, who had been sidelined with a strained right gluteal muscle, gave up a leadoff double and then issued a walk before striking out the next three batters to escape the inning unscathed. Following the outing, Bedard said he feels fully healthy and the injury is no longer an issue.
"It's never fun to miss time," Bedard said. "You just try to work hard and get back as fast as you can, and that's what I tried to do. [I was] able to get back out on the mound, and it's fun."
It's unclear what the plan is going forward for Bedard, but manager Bo Porter said he plans to meet with Bedard and the trainers Thursday to work out the details of his next appearance.
Though Bedard has a long history of injuries -- including Tommy John surgery in 2003, a strained oblique in '07, and left shoulder surgeries in '09 and '10 -- he has been mostly healthy each of the last two seasons, making 24 starts in both '11 and '12.
As for the other banged-up member of the rotation, potential Opening Day starter Lucas Harrell threw about 20 pitches in a bullpen session Wednesday and is hoping to return to game action this weekend. The right-hander has been out since last Tuesday when he strained his right groin while covering first base.
"I felt fine," Harrell said after Wednesday's session. "There was nothing holding me back. I didn't feel any pain or soreness or anything, so overall it was a big plus."
Astros in no hurry to officially set outfield
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Aside from Justin Maxwell starting in center field, not much is clear about what the Astros' outfield will look like on Opening Day.
The club's two newcomers, Chris Carter and Rick Ankiel, will get serious looks for the jobs in left and right field, respectively, but J.D. Martinez and Fernando Martinez are in the mix as well. Brandon Barnes also figures in as a fifth-outfielder type, with his combination of speed and superb defense.
"I answer this question the same way every time," manager Bo Porter said when asked about the outfield competition. "We're at March 13, we don't play until March 31. The competitions that we have going on will be ongoing, not just during Spring Training, but in the season. Nobody is going to win the job in one day or lose the job in one day because they go 0-for-4 or 0-for-3."
Though Porter said the club is happy with its current pool of outfielders, the Astros will likely at least take a look at outfielder Brennan Boesch. Boesch, released Wednesday by the Tigers, hit .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs last year. Overall, the 27-year-old is a .259 hitter with 42 long balls in his three big league seasons.
"We take a close look at all players that become available," general manager Jeff Luhnow said in a text message when asked about potential interest in Boesch. "[It's] part of our process."
Biggio on hand at Astros camp to work with infielders
KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Franchise icon Craig Biggio arrived in Astros camp Wednesday and will spend the next five days working with the organization's infielders.
Biggio was working with the Major League club on Wednesday, but he will stay behind to work with the Minor Leaguers on Thursday, when the Astros travel to Viera, Fla., for another tilt against the Nationals. As for his schedule the remainder of the week, Biggio simply plans to go wherever the organization feels his services would be most beneficial.
"I'll be wherever they need me to be," Biggio said. "If they need me to go on the other side [with the Minor Leaguers] while they're here, that's fine too. It's whatever they need, whenever they need it. I like to get out and about and see as many of these kids as I can."
Biggio, who has served as a special assistant to the general manager since his retirement following the 2007 season, said he has no immediate plans to pursue a Major League coaching career -- but he certainly didn't rule it out.
"You never know what tomorrow's going to bring, but I'm happy with what I'm doing now and the role I'm doing now," Biggio said. "I've enjoyed working with [general manager] Jeff [Luhnow] in the process, and the stuff we've been able to do in getting this organization back to where we need to get it back to -- and that's the most important thing."