White Sox

New Cubs pitcher joins chorus of friends and ex-teammates defending Manny Machado in wake of 'Johnny Hustle' comments

New Cubs pitcher joins chorus of friends and ex-teammates defending Manny Machado in wake of 'Johnny Hustle' comments

GLENDALE, Ariz. — To White Sox fans worried about what kind of addition Manny Machado might be, let a Cub alleviate your concerns.

Yes, I'm aware taking advice from one of those players from the other side of town isn't White Sox fans' favorite thing to do. But new Cubs relief pitcher Brad Brach spent five seasons as Machado's teammate with the Baltimore Orioles, and he has some insight for fans bothered by Machado's postseason antics, which were headlined by his comments that hustling wasn't his "cup of tea."

"He was good," Brach told reporters Friday at Cubs camp in Mesa. "He goes out there and plays hard every day. I know obviously some quotes were said later in the playoffs, but I enjoyed him as a teammate. He's going to make anybody who has him better, and he's a once-in-a-generation talent. It's exciting to get to see that on a daily basis.

"I think seeing him every day, you really appreciate it. If you see him in a short series or seven days or something like that, you might not appreciate what he brings for 162."

These are points that have been made by others who played with Machado, but it remains important to hear from former teammates while certain segments of the White Sox fan base remain fearful of what he'll do to the clubhouse culture should he end up signing on the South Side.

It's true that Machado has a history of unseemly on-field incidents. Even before a run of them in the NLCS while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in October — failing to run out a ground ball, interfering with double-play attempts at second base and dragging his foot across the leg of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar — he threw a bat and a helmet in on-field fits of frustration and executed a spikes-up slide that injured Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

The notorious "Johnny Hustle" comments have helped color Machado in the minds of many fans this offseason, and while perhaps an ultimately harmless public-relations gaffe, they generated speculation of how he would fit in with the White Sox, where manager Rick Renteria has not been shy about benching players who don't run hard to first base.

But those who know Machado best have been quick to rush to his defense. New White Sox outfielder Jon Jay, a good friend of Machado's, called him an "unbelievable worker." New White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso, Machado's brother-in-law, had even more to say when he joined the team.

"We’re looking at a player, a family person, a player that wants to be better every single day, a guy that pushes everybody," Alonso said back in December. "This guy shows up every day. ... We know what this guy does. I know what he does off the field, on the field. When he shows up, he shows up ready to play every single day. He gives it everything he’s got, and at the end of the day it’s about wins, wins, wins, wins. That’s all he wants.

"I know that in his past, playoffs, things were overblown, I believe. All the people don’t see the things that nobody can see: inside that clubhouse, how he gets ready, how he prepares, bringing it every single day, every night and making guys better every single day. This guy plays hard.

"He plays really good defense. He’s been a Platinum Glove winner. We obviously all know what kind of player he is when it comes to the offensive side. To do all those things you’ve got to play hard. You’ve got to go out there and give it all you got because there’s so many talented players out there that play the game very hard. ... I believe that he’s that type of player."

Machado's talent and statistical output are obvious. More of a mystery, however, to those who haven't been in a clubhouse with him is what kind of effect he could have on a team off the field.

Those who know him, those who have played with him, continue to say he's a good teammate and a totally different player than those comments during the postseason made him seem.

Machado still hasn't made up his mind about where he'll be playing. But should he come to the White Sox, it sounds like fans won't have to worry about his presence in the clubhouse being a negative one.

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Rick Renteria has a laugh at Cubs' expense in census PSA

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USA TODAY

Rick Renteria has a laugh at Cubs' expense in census PSA

"Even that team up in Wrigleyville counts."

White Sox fans probably have some varying opinions on that statement, but it was an unexpected laugh-worthy line in Rick Renteria's public service announcement encouraging folks to participate in this year's U.S. census.

In an otherwise standard pep talk from the South Side skipper, he assured every Chicago resident and every White Sox fan that they deserve to be counted in the every-10-years tally of the national population.

But even the manager had to chuckle when he got to this line: "I mean, even that team up in Wrigleyville counts."

Renteria has repeatedly expressed his lack of ill will toward his former employer on the other side of town and his gratitude for the Cubs giving him his first big league managerial job.

But a little neighborly ribbing between the two Chicago squads is always welcome. And in this case, it's for an important cause.

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Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Neal Cotts

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Neal Cotts

Neal Cotts was one of the stars of the 2005 White Sox bullpen, the top lefty in Ozzie Guillen’s relief corps.

Remember that guy?

Neal James Cotts celebrated his 40th birthday a week ago; he was born March 25, 1980 in Lebanon, Illinois, not far from St. Louis. A Lebanon High School product, he attended Illinois State and as a second round pick by the Oakland A’s (69th overall). At the time, Cotts was the second highest drafted player in ISU history, after Dave Bergman (second round, 36th overall in 1974).

Cotts started his pro career in 2001, posting a 2.73 ERA with 78 strikeouts in 66 innings across Vancouver (low-A) and Visalia (high-A). The next year for Modesto (high-A), he was 12-6 with a 4.12 ERA but struck out well over a batter an inning (178 K in 137.2 IP). He looked promising, if only he could cut down his walk totals (5.7 BB/9).

On Dec. 3, 2002, the White Sox traded Keith Foulke, Mark Johnson, Joe Valentine and cash to the A’s for Billy Koch and a player to be named later – Cotts – whom Oakland sent to the Sox on Dec. 16.

Cotts was excellent for Birmingham (AA) in 2003 and even started for the U.S. (under manager Carlton Fisk) in the 2003 Futures Game at U.S. Cellular Field. He made his MLB debut Aug. 12, 2003 at the Angels as a starter, going 2 1/3 innings, allowing two hits, two runs and six walks – including four in the third inning – and one strikeout (Shawn Wooten).

Cotts made four starts for an 8.10 ERA and was sent back down at the end of August. He had an encouraging minor league season, sporting a 2.16 ERA in 21 starts at Birmingham while striking out 133 in 108 1/3 innings, though the walk totals were still high. He made the transition to the bullpen in 2004, making only one start in 56 appearances. He struggled to adjust to his new role, finishing with a 5.65 ERA while striking out fewer than a batter an inning.

What happened in 2005, however, nobody would see coming.

Cotts walked a batter in each of his first four appearances of 2005 (five in three innings), but then walked only two over his next 13 games (10 2/3 innings). His positive roll continued, though he allowed three runs in his last appearance before the All-Star break to inflate his ERA to 2.86. He was nearly unhittable down the stretch, posting a 0.70 ERA in 35 games (25 2/3 innings) after the Midsummer Classic. He finished his season with a 1.94 ERA in 60 1/3 innings with 13 holds and a pair of saves, allowing just one home run.

Of 271 pitchers to toss at least 60 innings in 2005, Cotts’ home run rate (0.15 per nine innings) was the lowest. Here’s a fun fact: the highest home run rate (2.56) belonged to Ezequiel Astacio, with 23 in 81 innings. He was the pitcher who allowed Geoff Blum’s 14th inning blast in Game 3 of the World Series.

In the 2005 postseason, Cotts became the answer to a fun trivia question: who was the only White Sox reliever used in the ALCS? He retired two batters in relief of Jose Contreras in Game 1. Then the Sox cranked out four straight complete games. Cotts (1 1/3 innings, no runs) and Bobby Jenks (5 innings, two runs) were the two White Sox pitchers who saw work in all four games of the World Series sweep.

Like Cliff Politte, Cotts couldn’t find the same magic in 2006, as he posted a 5.17 ERA in 70 games. After the season, he was involved in what seemed like the rarest of trades – the crosstown swap between the White Sox and Cubs. The White Sox received pitchers David Aardsma and Carlos Vasquez in return.

The southpaw reliever from Southern Illinois shuffled between the Cubs and Triple-A Iowa over the next three seasons, though in 2008 he became the second hurler (after Bob Howry) to pitch for both the White Sox and Cubs in the postseason (Clayton Richard would later join them).

Cotts received the dreaded Tommy John diagnosis in mid-2009 and underwent elbow surgery in July. To make matters worse, the reliever had four hip surgeries starting in 2010. He tried to latch on with the Pirates in 2010 and the Yankees in 2011, but injuries wouldn’t allow him to throw a single pitch over a two-year span.

Cotts resurfaced in the Rangers organization in 2012 and finally worked his way back to the majors in 2013. On May 21, he threw his first major league pitch since May 25, 2009 in a remarkable story of perseverance. Not only did Cotts make it back, he turned in a career year, posting a remarkable 1.11 ERA in 58 games (57 innings). Of 330 pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched, only Koji Uehara (1.09) of the Red Sox was better.

Cotts struck out 65 batters that season and allowed fewer than a baserunner an inning (0.947 WHIP) for the only time in his MLB career. He regressed in 2014 (4.32 ERA in a career-high 73 games) and spent 2015 with the Brewers and, after an August trade, the Twins, posting a 3.41 ERA in 68 games.

The next two seasons saw Cotts sign with the Astros, Angels, Yankees, Rangers and Nationals, but he was unable to find his way back to the majors. He finished his MLB career with a 3.96 ERA in 483 games over 10 seasons. He had some ups and downs, but in 2005 Cotts was instrumental to the White Sox improbable World Series run.

You remember that guy.