Neal Cotts' return also rings true

CHICAGO -- A.J. Pierzynski's return got most of the attention Friday, but another member of the 2005 World Series champions tiptoed quietly into U.S. Cellular Field as a member of the Texas Rangers.

Reliever Neal Cotts, a key contributor to the White Sox’s championship team, is in the midst of an impressive comeback this season after not appearing in a major league game for nearly four years because of an elbow injury.

Traded to the Chicago Cubs after the 2006 season, Cotts has undergone two elbow surgeries and attempted failed comebacks with the Pirates and Yankees before pitching in the Rangers’ minor league system last year.

He made the Rangers' roster out of spring training this year and has been impressive with a 1.30 ERA in 40 appearances.

“Eventually I just wanted to get out on the field and see if I could do it again,” Cotts said. “That was the whole point of last year, I wanted to get back. If it was going to be the end, if I wasn’t going to pitch anymore, I’d rather have it be done on the field. If performance wise you’re not good enough, health wise you’re not good enough, then at least you know you were able to try. That was basically my goal going into last year.”

His season bears a striking resemblance to 2005 when he posted a 1.94 ERA in 69 appearances with the White Sox. If anything, Pierzynski said Cotts is more of a finesse pitcher now, but the difference has been subtle.

And there is also a sense of appreciation just for being able to play the game that might not have been as prominent as it was early in his career.

“I won’t say take things for granted, but I think you go at it maybe a little different way, a more mature way,” Cotts said. “Things tend to slow down and if stuff happens, the next day’s all right because you can turn it around. I think maybe when I was a little bit younger, things piled up every once in a while, where there was a bad outing and the next thing you know another bad outing. It just didn’t turn around as quickly.”

Despite the impressive return to be a successful major league pitcher again, Cotts says the World Series triumph remains his most memorable accomplishment. He pitched in every game of the series against the Houston Astros and didn’t give up a run.

“It’s exciting to come back (to U.S. Cellular Field),” said Cotts, who still makes his full-time residence in Chicago. “No matter if it’s coming back as a player, or as a fan 20 years down the road, I think it’s still going to bring back memories of an exciting time we had that year.”