It has been an up and down major league career for 29-year old Neal Cotts. After bursting out on the scene during the Chicago White Sox magical 2005 World Series title run (69 appearances, 1.94 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) as one of the White Sox most dependable players, Cotts has not been able to regain that form and has had to deal with numerous injuries. The latest is his biggest obstacle yet – elbow ligament replacement Tommy John surgery in early July – and it may bring an end to his baseball career.
Cotts appeared in 19 games for the Cubs in 2009, struggling with a 7.36 ERA and 2.09 WHIP. The Cubs moved Cotts down to Triple-A Iowa where he made 9 scoreless appearances until the June 24th game that ended his season. During the game, Cotts felt sharp pain in his left arm – something he had never felt before – and tests showed significant damage that would require surgery.
Since the surgery, Cotts has been rehabbing the arm and the rest of his body with an intensity never felt before. He is working out at the Cubs complex in Mesa, Arizona as well as at a Phoeniz area rehab facility. Cotts expects to pitch in 2010 – he saw Billy Wagner come back from the same surgery in just 10 months and pitch effectively for the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox in August and September of this year. And he doesn’t expect anything different for him. Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster have also had the surgery, and both are still pitching in the majors, so he has a lot to be hopeful for.
Whether it’s for the Cubs or not, he is still optimistic about 2010. Cotts is arbitration eligible, so it is unclear if GM Jim Hendry and the Cubs will offer him a contract before the December 12 deadline. Cotts has the right attitude: “It’s hard to put in perspective exactly if it happened on that one pitch or if it happened earlier and it was just building up – - I don’t know. I can’t go back on it now and say, ‘That was the problem.’ It was just being inconsistent, bad… It’s all ahead of me in terms of what I need to get done and getting back. You get in the best shape of your life now because you have nine months before you’re fully activated… I enjoy it over here and I’ve enjoyed the organization. They’ve treated me well. I know in terms of performance and in terms of staying up there, it hasn’t been as planned for either side. I’d like to be up there to help the team.”
Good luck to you, Neal…