The Texas Rangers signed five players -- catcher Juan Apodaca, outfielder Jim Adduci, left-handed pitcher Neal Cotts, outfielder Aaron Cunningham and right-handed pitcher Yonata Ortega -- to minor-league deals on Monday with invites to spring training. The name that jumps out to me is Cotts.
As spring training was winding down last year, the left-handed bullpen spot up for grabs was between Cotts and Robbie Ross. Cotts had impressed coaches and scouts in Surprise, Ariz., moving from the minor-league clubhouse over to the major-league side and continuing to get hitters out. It's possible that if Cotts hadn't suffered a strained left lat muscle near the end of spring training that he might have earned the bullpen spot. As it was, his injury combined with Ross' excellent performace gave the job to the rookie.
Cotts ended up rehabbing and making 25 relief appearances in Triple-A Round Rock. He was 2-1 with a 4.55 ERA in 31 2/3 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see how the 32-year-old does at spring training.
Some information from the Rangers on the other four players:
Apodaca, 26, has a career .251 average over 8 minor league seasons in the Los Angeles-NL, Boston, Cleveland, and Chicago-NL farm systems. The Venezuela native combined to hit .291 with 2 homers and 29 RBI in 83 games with Tennessee (AA) and Iowa (AAA) in the Cubs organization in 2012.
Adduci, 27, is a career .282 hitter over 9 minor league campaigns with Florida and Chicago-NL. He combined to hit .298 with 7 homers and 44 RBI in 126 games last year with Tennessee (AA) and Iowa (AAA). Born in British Columbia, he graduated from high school in suburban Chicago and was selected by Florida in the 42nd round of the 2004 June draft, where he was signed by current Rangers scout Scot Engler.
Cunningham, 26, played in 72 games with Cleveland in 2012, batting .175 with one homer and 7 RBI. He was designed for assignment on July 25 and outrighted to the minors on July 28. He spent the balance of the year at Triple-A Columbus, batting .203 in 22 games. Born in Alaska, Cunningham has played in the major leagues each of the past 5 seasons, compiling a career .219 average with Oakland (2008-09), San Diego (2010-11) and Cleveland (2012). He was originally selected by Chicago-AL in the 6th round of the 2005 June draft.
Ortega, who turned 26 yesterday, has spent his entire professional career in the Arizona farm system since being signed as a non-drafted free agent in 2004. The Dominican native made 42 relief appearances with Double-A Mobile in 2012, going 2-2 with a 6.88 ERA (40 ER/52.1 IP).