BALTIMORE – Milwaukee was at Washington on Friday when Neal Cotts learned that he had been traded to the Twins. So he took a nice drive up the Beltway to join his new team.
It took about 37 miles for him to gain eight wins and three spots in the wild-card standings. And it was one of the easiest trips Mike Herman, the Twins’ director of team travel, ever had to arrange.
“It’s nice to be in a situation where the team is fighting for a spot in the wild card,” said Cotts, 35. “Fortunately, I’ve had a couple opportunities in my career to be in those kind of spots. It’s going to be a fun last month and hopefully I can help out in any role I can and go from there.”
Cotts was 1-0 with a 3.26 ERA in 51 appearances with the Brewers. Used as a situational lefty, he held lefthanded hitters to a .185 batting average. Righthanded hitters batted .282 with an .839 OPS, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said Cotts has been effective against righties in the past and indicated he would use him more than as a lefthanded one-out guy.
What Molitor likes about Cotts is that he has postseason experience. Cotts was a member of the World Series champion White Sox in 2005 and played in the NL Division Series with the Cubs in 2008. In eight postseason appearances, totaling four innings, he has not given up an earned run.
“We know that he’s a great team guy,” Molitor said. “He’s been a leader of bullpens that he’s been in. He’s got experience pitching in big games. You look at his track record, he’s had years where he was pretty proficient whether he faces lefthanders or righthanders. He’s a guy you can go to for more than one inning if you need to.”
If Cotts were with the Twins last week, he likely would have faced the Yankees in the sixth inning on Tuesday and not rookie Ryan O’Rourke.
Cotts is fine with any role he is given. He didn’t pitch in the majors from 2010 to 2012 as he first dealt with Tommy John surgery, then a series of hip surgeries, first relating to a childhood injury, then to deal with a staph infection.
So he doesn’t take these opportunities lightly.
“You sense how fortunate it is to get into a race and meaningful games in September,” he said. “It just picks up the competition level a little bit and it is exciting.”
Righthander Phil Hughes can come off the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday. But he won’t.
The sore back for which Hughes received an epidural injection has not responded as well as the Twins had hoped. Instead of getting his arm ready to pitch, Hughes has been relegated to pool workouts at Target Field. He experiences minor irritation when he makes certain movements.
“Phil is still having a little discomfort,” Molitor said.
Rookie Tyler Duffey probably was going to start Tuesday at Tampa Bay anyway, but the Hughes development cements that. Duffey, who gave up two runs over 7 ⅔ innings Friday against Baltimore, will start opposite of Rays All-Star righthander Chris Archer.
Meanwhile, the Twins are in a holding pattern with Hughes.
“He’s not throwing,” Molitor said. “He’s better than he was, obviously. He’s just not turning around as fast as we hoped he would at this point.”
Perk trying to play
Closer Glen Perkins played catch Saturday and said he felt “great.” Perkins, who received two cortisone shots Wednesday to treat a bulging disk in his neck, probably will throw in the bullpen Sunday and then be available Tuesday against the Rays.
Perkins, however, might lobby to pitch Sunday if there’s a save situation.