Neal Cotts

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Neal James Cotts

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Biographical Information[edit]

Neal Cotts was a prolific LOOGY, making 483 appearances while winning a ring with the Chicago White Sox in 2005.

Neal was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the second round of the 2001 amateur draft after an 8-3, 2.89 senior season with Illinois State. He led the MVC with 113 strikeouts in 87 innings and was named to the All-Conference team. Cotts began his career with the Vancouver Canadians, going 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA, fanning 44 in 35 innings. Promoted to the Visalia Oaks, he went 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 31 innings. In 2002, Neal pitched for the Modesto A's and went 12-6 with a 4.12 ERA. He led the team in wins and struck out 178 in 138 innings, though he walked 87. That offseason, he was traded to the ChiSox as a player to be named later in the Keith Foulke and Billy Koch swap. He went 9-7 with a 2.12 ERA for the Birmingham Barons in 2003 before being promoted to the majors in August and making four starts. He whiffed 133 and walked 56 in 108 innings, allowing 67 hits and a .177 opponent batting average. He made the Southern League All-Star team as the top southpaw pitcher.

In 2004, Neal was converted to the bullpen and, after a rocky 87 ERA+ debut, had a dazzling 4-0, 1.94 and 229 ERA+ in 2005, allowing 38 hits and striking out 58 in 60 1/3 innings. Cotts pitched 2/3 of an inning in Game 1 of the ALCS against the Los Angeles Angels, the only member of the Sox bullpen to pitch in the series, and was similarly spotless in the Fall Classic, appearing in all four games of the sweep (comprising 1 1/3 innings) with two whiffs and the victory in Game 2. He was traded to the Chicago Cubs on November 16, 2006 for David Aardsma and minor leaguer Carlos Vasquez after falling to a 5.17 ERA in 70 games, recording his first of four career saves. Cotts pitched three seasons for the Cubs, from 2007 to 2009. He also spent time with AAA Iowa each year. Used exclusively in middle relief, he was 0-1, 4.86 in 16 games the first year, then 0-2, 4.29 in 50 games in 2008. He was again winless in 2009, with a record of 0-2 and a 7.36 ERA that got him sent to Iowa for good at the end of May. He had a good K/BB rate in 2008, with 43 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 35 2/3 innings, but in 2009 gave up 9 walks and 14 hits in only 11 innings before his demotion. He did not pitch in organized baseball in either 2010 or 2011 after Tommy John surgery in July 2009.

He finally returned to the big leagues with the Rangers in 2013, after posting the best strikeout rate in the minor leagues early in the season: he struck out 42 batters in 23 innings for the Round Rock Express (16.4 per 9 innings) while going 3-1 with a 0.78 ERA in 15 games. He made his return on May 23, pitching a scoreless inning against the Oakland Athletics. On June 5th, he picked up his first win in seven years with a strategically-timed 1/3 of an inning in relief of Alexi Ogando against the Boston Red Sox. Cotts walked the first two men he faced, but struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to end the inning, and the Rangers then scored a couple of runs. Cotts came out to start the 7th, but walked yet another batter, Stephen Drew, and gave way to Robbie Ross, doing enough to get credit for the win. The bout of wildness was uncharacteristic, as after 10 innings, he had issued only 5 walks against 12 strikeouts. He did not have to wait nearly as long to claim his next win, as it came on June 9th, when he retired all three Toronto Blue Jays batters he faced after coming again in a tie situation. He finished the year 8-3, 1.11 with two saves in 58 games. Cotts made a career high 73 appearances with Texas in 2014, falling down to a 2-9, 4.32 record, then split his 2015 season with the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins (68 games, 1-0, 3.41). After working exclusively in the minors in 2016 and 2017, he called it a career.

Sources: 2002-2004 Baseball Almanacs

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