Cotts and Politte, joined at the hip

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Cotts and Politte, joined at the hip

The human body was never intended to throw a baseball, let alone off a pitcher's mound, as hard as possible, thousands of times, over the course of 15 to 20 years.

It's a fact that former White Sox pitchers Cliff Politte and Neal Cotts are reminded of every day they get out of bed. Their creaky bodies as stiff as surf boards, their skin, once clean and clear, now dotted with stitches from past surgeries, road maps from one operation to the next.

It's the price the duo paid for playing baseball for a living. They were the unsung heroes of the White Sox World Series Champion team in 2005, coming out of the bullpen to protect so many leads during that one magical season. Cotts was 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 60.1 innings. Politte went 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA in 67.1 innings.

The two were so close, they were joined at the hip. Now in retirement, they have actually taken that connection quite literally.

Both have needed hip surgeries as a result of their playing days, just a sample of the physical toll the game took on their bodies over the course of their careers.

"When I retired, I had a total hip replacement," said Politte, who has a five-inch and six-inch scar on his front and backside from the operation. He's also needed two surgeries on his throwing shoulder, an ailment which caused him to abruptly quit the game after the 2006 season at the age of 32.

"Just recently I had some tendon issues. I had to go back in and fix the tendons and all this fun stuff. So I won't be picking up a baseball to try and play anytime soon," Politte said.

Traded to the Cubs for David Aardsma after the 2006 season, Cotts blew a save at Wrigley Field against the Pirates on May 25, 2009. He had no idea that it would be his last game in the majors. A month later he would be in the operating room needing Tommy John surgery to replace a torn ligament in his left elbow.

But that was only the start of his medical problems.

"Then I had four hip surgeries," Cotts said. "Mine was just a laberal tear that they fixed, and it got infected. So I spent a couple weeks in the hospital with the infection. Once they cleaned it out, they had to take quite a bit of stuff out. I don't know the medical jargon. It's really hampered me trying to get with a team the last couple years."

Cotts, at 31, is starting to accept that his baseball career might be over. Politte, 37, is still coming to grips with how his ended.

"You see guys that get hurt all the time and then they come back, so it was one of these things where if my shoulder was bothering me, I'd come back and pitch again. Unfortunately, that never happened to me," Politte said. "To have my season end and my career end the way it did, I'm still upset and bitter over it, and wish it never happened. But injuries are something that you can try to control, but if it happens, it happens."

Politte and Cotts actually met before becoming White Sox teammates in 2004. They were both working out in St. Louis during the off-season in 2002. Politte was with the Blue Jays, Cotts was still in the minors with the White Sox.

"It was a brief meeting," Cotts recalled. "He didn't really think much of me. I was a minor league guy. He was the big league guy. That's kind of how our relationship went to start with."

"Truth hurts sometimes, you know," Politte quipped.

But in 2005, everything gelled between them, both personally and professionally.

From 2004 to 2005, Cotts lowered his ERA from 5.65 to that spotless 1.94. Meanwhile, after going 2-11 from 2002 to 2004, Politte went 7-1 in 2005, his only loss coming in the last week of the season.

"I had the nickname as 'The Vulture.' You come in and throw one inning, you hold the team to no runs, your team scores the one run for you and you get the win," Politte said. "You sit there and you talk to players who say, 'You had a pretty good year that year,' and I say, 'I had a 2.00 ERA.' And you start thinking, 'Holy smokes, how did that happen?'"

He's not the only player from 2005 still asking that question.

Take Cotts. In 2004 with the White Sox, he gave up 13 home runs. In 2006, he gave up 12. How many home runs did he surrender in 2005?

One.

It was that kind of season.

And although they have scars to remind themselves of their playing days, both men provided memories White Sox fans will never forget.

"It's an opportunity that will never be taken away from us, and opportunity we cherish," Politte said.

"The experiences we got to go through, and the things we got to do, we're very fortunate to be in that position, however long it is. Granted, you'd love it to be forever, " Cotts said. "You think about our two situations. For the younger kids we talk to now, you really count the days.

The lesson?

Don't take it for granted."

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

White Sox P Zach Putnam: 'It was definitely time to speak up' about injured elbow

He’s evaluating his options and hopes for the best, but Zach Putnam knew it was time to speak up to the White Sox about his right elbow.  

The White Sox right-hander is on the 15-day disabled list with ulnar neuritis in his right elbow. His options are two types of surgery, including reconstructive elbow surgery, or to rehab the injury. Putnam said he’s constantly dealt with some general soreness in the same area in which he had bone spurs removed during an August 2013 surgery. But some of the pain Putnam -- who has a 2.30 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings this season -- recently has felt is beyond what he had previously experienced.

“My last two outings … I started having some pretty serious issues again that I couldn’t ignore,” Putnam said. “It’s one of those things were you’ve got to try to find the line between what you can work through and what’s typical reliever stuff and when to say something. I felt like in my opinion that it was definitely time to speak up.”

“I was having a hard time throwing strikes, losing some feeling in my fingers. It was starting to become an issue. Like I said, we are trying to address it non-surgically and hope for the best. Worst-case scenario, yeah probably end up having something done. But we are going to try to avoid that.”

Putnam has been working out, but hasn’t thrown a baseball. The current plan calls for resting his arm and letting the inflammation die down. But he could at least attempt to play catch again soon, perhaps this weekend when he accompanies the team to Houston.

“I’m just not doing baseball specific stuff,” Putnam said. “I’m not throwing right now. That may change in the next couple of days as we try to ramp it back up. We are not going to waste too much time down from throwing. It kind of defeats the purpose.”

“I’m going to continue to work on it every day and maybe start throwing for the first time over the weekend. Not totally sure. As I say, it’s day to day. Every day I come in, we try to evaluate. Meeting with team doctors every other day to try to figure out where we are at and what the next step is.”

Wrist injury has Melky Cabrera out of White Sox lineup

Wrist injury has Melky Cabrera out of White Sox lineup

The health bug struck the White Sox again on Wednesday as Melky Cabrera is out at least three-to-four days with a mild right wrist strain.

A team which has already had its depth tested faces another challenge as one of its best hitters needed an MRI after he left Tuesday’s loss to the Minnesota Twins early. Batting in the middle of the lineup all season to break up a glut of right-handed hitters, Cabrera is hitting .294/.344/.462 this season with eight home runs and 39 RBIs.

“You don't like anytime you don't have Melky in there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He's a switch-hitter, middle of the lineup -- it hurts to not have him in there. We're going to have to figure out a way to make up for that.”

Switch-hitter Dioner Navarro is hitting fifth on Wednesday as the White Sox face the Twins in the second of a three-game set.

Cabrera initially injured on June 18 in Cleveland. Though he exited that game early, Cabrera returned to the lineup the next day. He hit three homers and has a 1.018 OPS in 39 plate appearances since even though he has experienced some soreness. He re-aggravated the wrist on a swing and miss Tuesday.

“It’s difficult because I want to play, but the doctors said the best for me right now is just to take a rest for a couple of days because I have inflammation there,” Cabrera said through an interpreter. “But yeah, for me, I want to play. I don’t like to be on the bench. I want to play because the team needs me and I need the team.”

The White Sox are already without Austin Jackson, who is out at least several more weeks after he had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. The club is also short three relievers as Zach Putnam is on the 15-day disabled list with neural uritis in his right elbow, Jake Petricka had potentially season-ending hip surgery and Dan Webb had reconstructive elbow surgery.

Ventura said the medical staff doesn’t believe a DL stint is warranted in Cabrera’s case.

“They're talking three or four days just to be able to get over the inflammation, things that are in there,” Ventura said. “It hurts him when he swings and misses, so it would help if he just didn't miss.”

Jim Thome to have highway named after him in Peoria

Jim Thome to have highway named after him in Peoria

Jim Thome's name is very well-known around the baseball world, and rightfully so. 

The former White Sox slugger hit 612 home runs during his 22-year major-league career, but is equally known for being an all-around good guy.

Perhaps Thome's name is most popular in his hometown of Peoria, IL. 

Some people get a street named after them in their hometown after achieving fame. Not Jim Thome. Jim Thome gets a highway named after him.

The Peoria Journal Star reported that a portion of the Route 24 roadway at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex will be named after Thome.

Thome's portion of Route 24 will be coined 'Jim Thome Expressway.' The aforementioned section will extend from Adams Street in Bartonville to Griswold Street in Peoria.

Thome is currently serving in the White Sox front office as the Special Assistant to the Senior VP/General Manager.