|Texas Rangers – No. 56|
March 25, 1980 |
|Bats: Left||Throws: Left|
|August 12, 2003 for the Chicago White Sox|
(through June 25, 2014)
|Earned run average||3.95|
|Career highlights and awards|
Cotts attended Illinois State University, and won first-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors and was named to the ABCA All-Midwest Region team. He was drafted by the Oakland Athletics 69th overall in the 2nd round of the 2001 draft, becoming the second highest player drafted in the history of Illinois State. Neal finished his collegiate career ranked fifth all-time in strikeouts with 263 in just three seasons with the Redbirds.
Cotts spent the 2002 season at Single-A Modesto of the California League, winning 12 games in 28 starts. Over the off-season, Cotts was traded to the Chicago White Sox in a six-player deal involving relief pitchers Billy Koch and Keith Foulke.
Cotts began the 2003 season ranked as the number three prospect in the White Sox farm system. He started his year at Double-A Birmingham, of the Southern League, going 9-6 with a 2.12 ERA, and 131 strikeouts. In July 2003, Cotts started for the United States in Major League Baseball's Futures Game. He debuted for Chicago on August 12, 2003, starting against the Anaheim Angels and pitched 2.1 innings, allowing two runs, two hits and six walks. He received a no-decision in the game. On August 22, Cotts won his first game against the Texas Rangers, pitching five innings and allowing five hits. Cotts ended the season with a record of 1-1 and an 8.10 ERA.
In 2004, new manager Ozzie Guillén inserted Cotts into the bullpen. Cotts finished April with a 0.90 ERA, but from May–July had an ERA of 8.28. He finished the season with 65.1 innings pitched, a 4-4 record, and an ERA of 5.65. On June 18, Cotts got his first major league hit, a double, off Luis Ayala of the Montreal Expos.
In 2005, Cotts went 4-0 while appearing in 69 games, throwing 60.1 innings and compiling a 1.94 ERA, 58 strikeouts, and yielding just 1 home run. MLB.com awarded Cotts the "Setup Man of the Year Award", an award determined by fan voting. In the American League Championship Series, Cotts was the only person to pitch out of the bullpen in the Sox 4-1 series win, throwing 2/3 of an inning in Game 1. Cotts pitched in all four games of the World Series and was the winning pitcher Game 2.
On December 13, 2007, the Cubs re-signed Cotts to a one-year contract for $800,000. Cotts began the 2008 season in AAA, as he'd ended the previous season. He would be recalled from AAA, however, in May and remained with Cubs as their primary left handed reliever after trading away veteran pitcher, Scott Eyre.
In 2009, Cotts started with the Cubs but was demoted to the team's AAA minor league Iowa club in May. On June 24, he felt a sharp pain while pitching for Iowa and his season was over with an elbow ligament injury. Cotts underwent successful Tommy John Surgery in July 2009. He was non-tendered on December 12 and became a free agent.
On January 4, 2010, Cotts signed a minor-league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates with an invite to spring training. In June 2010, Cotts had the first of four surgeries on his hip ending his comeback bid for the season. On September 17, 2010 Cotts was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
On November 22, 2010 Cotts signed a minor league contract with the New York Yankees with an invitation to 2011 spring training. Cotts was released by the Yankees on February 16, 2011 due to the results of his physical. For the second straight season, Cotts did not pitch professionally.
Cotts signed with the Texas Rangers and was in contention in spring training to return to the Major Leagues but suffered an arm strain injury. He finally appeared in a professional game for the first time since 2009 on June 11, 2012 pitching for the Texas Rangers' Triple-A affiliate Round Rock. He finished the season with Round Rock posting a 4.55 ERA with 3 saves while striking out 41 in 31.2 innings.
On November 12, 2012, Cotts signed a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training to return to the Rangers organization. Cotts failed to make the Rangers out of spring training in 2013 and rejoined Round Rock. He posted a 0.78 ERA going 3-1 and was promoted to the Rangers on May 21, 2013. After a nearly four year absence from the Major Leagues, Cotts threw six pitches against Oakland on May 21. His agent Joe Bick said, "When he went back to the mound that first time, I had a lump the size of a softball in my throat.” Cotts said of his return to the Major Leagues, "There's a point where you go through all of it where you don't know if you're ever going to play again; I never was really accepting of that." Cotts became a left-handed specialist for the Rangers bullpen. However, Cotts has had better platoon splits against right-handed batters than left-handed batters since joining the Rangers. In 2013, Cotts held opposing right-handed batters to a measly .436 On-base plus slugging percentage, and left-handed hitters had a .565 OPS. In 2014 so far, he has a .625 opponent's OPS versus right-handed batters, and same-handed batters are hitting .791 off him.
- "LHP Neal Cotts agrees to 1-year, $800,000 deal with Chicago Cubs - MLB - Yahoo! Sports". Archived from the original on December 14, 2009.
- "The long, improbable comeback of Neal Cotts". CSN Chicago. June 9, 2013. Archived from the original on June 14, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- Donnie Collins (Staff Writer) (November 24, 2010). "SWB Yankees notes - Sports". The Times-Tribune. Archived from the original on December 2, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- "Prior signs one-year deal with Yankees | yankees.com: News". Newyork.yankees.mlb.com. May 24, 2013. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- "Neal Cotts released - The LoHud Yankees Blog". Yankees.lhblogs.com. February 16, 2011. Archived from the original on December 3, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2013.
- Sullivan, T.R. (November 12, 2012). "Rangers sign five non-roster players". Postcards From Elysian Fields. Archived from the original on November 9, 2013.
- Lippman, Jeff. "Rangers add Neal Cotts to bullpen." CBSsports.com, July 21, 2013.
- Grant, Evan. "How Neal Cotts went from the brink of baseball oblivion to key cog in Rangers bullpen" Dallas Morning News, July 1, 2013.
- Sanders, Norm. "Comeback Cotts." Belleville News-Democrat. June 12, 2013.
- Career statistics and player information from MLB, or ESPN, or Baseball-Reference, or Fangraphs, or The Baseball Cube, or Baseball-Reference (Minors)