Former MDC star Cotton wins in MLB debut

Former MDC star Cotton wins in MLB debut

By: Walter Villa/ Miami Herald

Former Miami Dade College right-hander Jharel Cotton earned a win in his major-league debut on Wednesday, continuing what has already been a stunningly successful year for former MDC Sharks baseball players.

Pitching for the Oakland A's, Cotton beat the Angels 4-1, allowing two hits, one walk and one run in  6 1/3 innings. He had a shutout going until he allowed a solo homer to lead off the seventh.

Cotton is the fourth former MDC player to make his major-league debut this year, joining outfielders Brian Goodwin (Washington Nationals) and Jabari Blash (San Diego Padres) and right-hander Derek Law (San Francisco Giants).

"That's amazing, isn't it?" MDC coach Danny Price said. "Law, Goodwin and Cotton were all roommates as sophomores at MDC."

To put MDC's feat in perspective, consider that no former University of Miami, FIU or Barry University baseball players have made major-league debuts this season.

In fact, if you added up the major-league players who made or will make their debuts from the four NCAA Division I and Division II universities in Miami-Dade and Broward counties, you would get just one — Nova Southeastern's Carlos Asuaje, who has been told he will get a call-up from the Padres as soon as his Triple A playoff run ends.

MDC, on its own, has had four times as many debuts this year as this area's "Big Four."

Cotton, a 24-year-old native of the Virgin Islands, was a sprinter in his youth. Like many kids on the island, he also enjoyed surfing, snorkeling and other water sports. When he was 16, he came to Miami to compete in a baseball tournament at Southridge High. MDC pitching Kevin Long, tipped off by a reliable source that Cotton was someone he should watch, went to scout him.

"He pitched inside, and that's what impressed me," Long said. "He was pitching against kids two years older than him, but he wasn't afraid."

Long, coaching under Steve Hertz at the time, offered Cotton a scholarship right away. When Cotton arrived at MDC, the Sharks' 1-2 rotation punch was comprised of him and Law, who is 4-2 with a 1.94 ERA in the majors this season.

Cotton, before getting called up to the majors this year, led the Triple A Pacific Coast League in strikeout rate. The A's got him in a July trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he earned his promotion to the majors by posting a 2.82 ERA in six starts for Triple A Nashville.

Although he is only 5-11, Cotton's velocity has spiked from 88-91 mph to 92-96 this season. His best pitches are a four-seam fastball that attacks hitters up in the zone and a changeup that he keeps low.

One scout said Cotton's changeup was the best in the Pacific Coast League, and you will get no argument from Hertz.

"I've coached a lot of great players," Hertz said, "but [Cotton] had the best changeup of any of them."