When Neal Cotts debuted with the Chicago White Sox in August 2003, the team was in the second of three consecutive runner-up finishes to the Twins in the AL Central. From 2002-2010, the Twins or Sox would capture the division title eight times. When the dust settled, our Twins could boast six AL Central Championships to the Sox two, but Chicago claimed the ultimate prize in 2005, their first World Series win since 1917.
Cotts meanwhile, remained on the South Side of Chicago until 2006 before heading to the North Side for three seasons with the Cubs. Due to arm and hip injuries, the lefty reliever did not pitch at all in 2010 or 2011. Cotts returned to the Texas organization in 2012, spending the year at Triple A before cracking the big league roster in 2013. After two seasons with the Rangers, the 35-year-old signed with Milwaukee in January and was dealt to the Twins on August 21.
With those Twins/White Sox rivalry years of the 2000s quickly fading into history and many of the participants transitioning into other careers, I couldn’t pass up a chance to reminisce with Cotts during the last homestand.
DZ: You’ve been here not even two weeks yet – a week and a half – what are your impressions of the team so far?
COTTS: So far, so good. We have been playing well. We are battling and have been able to stay in every game and our hitters have come up big late in a couple of games. It’s been a good transition so far.
DZ: Where were you when you found out you got traded?
COTTS: (The Brewers) were in Washington, so I just took the car up to Baltimore about 40 minutes away.
DZ: You started the year in Milwaukee and things didn’t go too well there, so you probably weren’t too surprised when you found out you were being moved.
COTTS: You never know. You never know how things will go. I was in Texas last year and things didn’t end up well there team wise and I ended up staying. It’s the way the game goes. You always kind of think there might be some movement (and) with Milwaukee there was quite a bit of movement this year. Didn’t really surprise me a whole lot that I moved, but either way I was OK with, I guess.
DZ: Most people don’t have that kind of lifestyle, what’s it like later in the season like that; you could get a call literally any moment telling you, “Hey, you‘re in a different city now”?
COTTS: I have been playing a while, it’s kind of “whatever”. You play against a lot of these guys so maybe…when I got traded when I was a little younger it was different. I didn’t know a whole lot of people, but coming over here, I have played against quite a few of these guys, so I think that makes the transition a little bit easier.
DZ: Do you take it more personally when you are younger?
COTTS: It’s just very new, especially when you are younger. A lot of new people. It’s a little bit different I guess.
DZ: The Twins and White Sox had a really good rivalry going for the Central Division in the mid-to-late 2000s, you were part of that (with Chicago). When you think back to those days, what stands out?
COTTS: The Metrodome was tough to play in, that’s what stands out. I know that. It was tough to come up here and win. They always had very good teams. They could pitch, they had a nice line-up. They played at the Metrodome very well. They had some speed, some power through the middle with Morneau and Mauer and Hunter. There were always good games. We always played really good games against each other. It was very competitive.
DZ: Any moments you were personally involved in stand out?
COTTS: I don’t know. Honestly, I can remember any specific moments.
DZ: You guys ended up winning the World Series in ‘05. It’s been 10 years, when you think back, what stands out about that time?
COTTS: We had a really good team. We didn’t have many injuries throughout the year, that was one thing that definitely helped. Our starters may have went the entire year without being hurt. I am not sure, you’d have to check. We had a great team, we all pulled together….We had great starting pitching. That was the one thing stands out. Our starters were really good all year and in the playoffs.
DZ: Statistics-wise, it may have been your best year in the big leagues (4-0, 1.94 ERA in 69 games). You pitched well in the World Series (0.00 ERA in 4 appearances). Do you have any World Series memories?
COTTS: The first batter I faced in the World Series – (Houston’s Lance) Berkman – lasered a ball. Luckily, he hit it too hard and they didn’t score. It was Game 1. I ended up striking out two guys and Bobby Jenks came in and struck out Bagwell I believe. That was kind of the turning point I think…That was a huge game. We could have lost that game easily. They would have tied it. Who knows what could have happened after that..
DZ: …(The bullpen) hasn’t really been the strength of the team all year, but right now it seems like you guys have kind of gelled.
COTTS: Being in Milwaukee, I wasn’t paying attention too much to what was going on here, but from when I have been here, I think we have done a really nice job. We have been in a lot of games and thrown a lot of innings…(if) each of us can pick up some outs here or there each day and specifically do our job, it makes everything look good as a whole. Just do our thing.
See more of David Zingler’s player interviews:
September 10: Trevor May
September 2: Byron Buxton
August 28: Kyle Gibson
August 23: Kevin Jepsen
August 19: Aaron Hicks
August 18: Trevor Plouffe
July 1: Blaine Boyer
June 26: Phil Hughes
June 24: Brian Dozier
June 22: Joe Mauer