HOUSTON -- The next wave of young talent is finally on its way to the Astros.
Right-handed pitcher Jarred Cosart, a prized prospect from the Astros' improving Minor League system, got the call Wednesday night that he was headed for the Major Leagues in the first of what could be a wave of premier prospects hitting Houston this year.
The Astros announced following Wednesday's game Cosart -- their top-ranked pitching prospect and fourth-ranked overall -- would make his big league debut by starting Friday's game in Tampa Bay. The team optioned outfielder Jimmy Paredes to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
"I'm so excited and thankful for the opportunity," Cosart told MLB.com. "It's tough when you get to the Triple-A level. Everybody says don't think about when you're going up and just keep pitching, but it's really hard, and anybody can tell you that. Jordan [Lyles] was in that position and a lot of other guys have been, too. I was completely caught off-guard today.
"I figured with the off-days and whatnot there was no chance, so I was caught off-guard and shocked and overjoyed and everything."
Cosart, who grew up in the Houston area, was acquired by the Astros from the Phillies as one of four players in the Hunter Pence deal in 2011. Another player acquired in that deal -- first baseman Jonathan Singleton -- is Houston's top-ranked prospect and could reach the Majors this year, as well.
Outfielder George Springer, the team's first-round Draft pick in 2011, is off to a quick start at Triple-A after spending the first half of the season at Double-A Corpus Christi, where he hit 20 home runs. Springer is hitting .417 with seven homers and 17 RBIs as he makes a case to reach Houston this summer, too.
Cosart, 23, went 7-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 18 games (17 starts) for the RedHawks.
He charted pitches in the stands in Round Rock, Texas, on Wednesday night and was called on the carpet in the middle of the clubhouse afterward by Oklahoma City manager Tony DeFrancesco for wearing flip-flops, even though he wore sneakers. With Cosart's teammates around him, DeFrancesco told Cosart the real reason he summoned him: He was going to the Majors.
"The guys are amazing here and they were happy for me and it's been a fun ride here, but now it's time to show what I can do up there and prove to them I can run with this shot," he said.
Cosart then grabbed his phone and called his parents in League City, Texas, for a tear-filled phone call before getting some advice on big league life from outfielder Justin Maxwell, who plans to fly with Cosart to Tampa on Thursday morning. Maxwell was rehabbing from a concussion with Oklahoma City.
"It's a game I've been playing since I was 7 years old," Cosart said. "It's 60-feet, 6-inches [from home plate to the pitcher's mound]. I know it's my first ever start in the Major Leagues and there's going to be some adrenaline or nerves or whatever you call it, but I'm going to try to get that first pitch out of the way and go from there."
Cosart considers the Tampa area his home away from home, considering he spent a few Spring Trainings with the Phillies in nearby Clearwater, Fla. Some of his former Phillies teammates will be rehabbing in Clearwater while Cosart is taking the mound in a big league game.
He said he didn't think he'd have trouble sleeping Wednesday night, but Thursday could be a different story. Cosart said he didn't know whether he would remain in the Astros' rotation following the All-Star break or return to Oklahoma City.
With former starter Lucas Harrell moved to the bullpen and Bud Norris ruled out for Sunday's start against the Rays to stay fresh for a opportunity as an All-Star alternate, the Astros had to alter the rotation for the final three games of the first half. Dallas Keuchel and Eric Bedard will follow Cosart in the rotation on Saturday and Sunday, respectively, taking the Astros into the All-Star break.
"Hopefully I pitch well enough to make them keep me up there," he said. "It's all about consistency. I don't know much about the Rays, but I know [catcher Jason] Castro is great with scouting reports and [pitching coach Doug Brocail] and those guys will help me do what I need to do."
Cleared after BP, Carter returns to lineup in St. Louis
ST. LOUIS -- Outfielder Chris Carter was back in the lineup Wednesday against the Cardinals and showed few lingering effects of the minor hand injury that limited him the past four days.
Carter took his first pitch he saw from Cardinals starter Shelby Miller and hit it 385 feet to right field for the first run of the game. The second-inning blast was Carter's 18th home run of the season, tops among the Astros.
Carter took a ball off his right hand as he slid to second base against the Rangers on Friday, causing some soreness and pain when he put pressure on it or swung a bat.
"Everything is good," Carter said before the game. "It's been four days now. I got a couple pinch-hits, but it's good to be back out there again."
Carter sat out Saturday, and pinch-hit Sunday and Tuesday. Manager Bo Porter said Carter could have started Tuesday in St. Louis, but he wanted to see the left fielder go through a full batting practice before returning to the lineup. The Astros didn't take batting practice Sunday and then had an off-day Monday, so Tuesday was Carter's first opportunity to do so.
"I wanted him to go through a complete batting practice where he feels the impact and report no ill effects or setbacks before we put him into the lineup," Porter said. "Today he's back in there and he should be good to go."
Texas native Derr selected as Astros' Hero winner
ST. LOUIS -- Dennis Derr was selected as the Astros' representative for the "Tribute for Heroes" campaign, a national initiative by Major League Baseball and People Magazine that recognizes veterans and military service members.
Derr, of League City, Texas, served as an Infantryman in the Marines for seven years before medically retiring due to injuries incurred in combat. In addition to a Purple Heart, Derr was awarded a Bronze Star medal with Combat "V".
He volunteers with Houston-area organizations that benefit wounded warriors, such as Impact a Hero and Combat Marine Outdoors, which hosts hunting and fishing trips for hospitalized veterans in San Antonio.
Derr will join 29 other winners, one for each Major League club, in New York to take part in All-Star Week festivities and will be honored during a pregame ceremony for the July 16th All-Star Game at Citi Field. Winners were selected by online fan vote.
Further information on all of the "Tribute for Heroes" winners can be found at TributeForHeroes.com.
• After leaving Tuesday's game early with a contusion on his left big toe, Ronny Cedeno was out of the Astros' lineup Wednesday.
• Outfielder George Springer -- the Astros' third-ranked prospect (No. 47 overall), according to MLB.com -- went 4-for-5 with two homers for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday. Springer also tripled and hit five RBIs in the Redhawks' 11-8 loss to Round Rock.
• Brett Wallace has four doubles, a triple, 10 RBIs and three home runs in 12 games since his June 25 promotion from Triple-A. Wallace is facing the organization he started with, as the Cardinals selected him 13th overall in the 2008 First-Year Player Draft.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. Chad Thornburg is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.