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 prospect Lucas Giolito: No-hitter 'special' after early struggles

White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito: No-hitter 'special' after early struggles

Lucas Giolito got the “click” he was looking for on Thursday night and it resulted in a seven-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Charlotte.

Currently the No. 2-rated White Sox prospect, Giolito has struggled so far this season at Charlotte. He’s 2-5 with a 5.44 ERA in nine starts in 46 1/3 innings.

While he’s struck out 43 hitters, Giolito has also walked 25. But it all came together for the tall right-hander on Thursday when he threw an 87-pitch no-no against the Syracuse Chiefs.

“It was special,” Giolito said on a conference call on Friday. “Just the way the year has gone, it didn't start the way I wanted it to, the numbers haven't been great. So it's great to have a no-hitter under my belt, my first professional one. Just take that and work from there. I'm just going to keep working on the things I've been working on the past few weeks and hopefully string a few good ones together.”

Rated the No. 3 overall prospect in the majors before the 2016 season, Giolito’s profile has slipped some because of performance. The top name included from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal, Giolito has struggled with command of his offspeed pitches and fastball at times. Earlier this month, Giolito described his performance as “atrocious,” while remaining optimistic that his fortunes could change just like clicking on a light switch.

Giolito said he felt confident on the mound Thursday and it translated.

“I did a lot better job of keeping the fastball down in the zone to both sides of the plate,” Giolito said. “I was able to get the ball inside to lefties pretty well, maybe got a few jam shots some pop outs here and there and then I had my two-seamer working as well. It was just a pretty solid day as far as throwing the fastball.”

Pleased as he is, Giolito is striving to be better. He pointed at his three walks as an area he’d like to improve upon. But he’s also happy with how it all worked on Thursday.

“There's always still work to do,” Giolito said. “I walked three batters and that is not something I want to be doing. The walk numbers are a little too high for my liking. There's still plenty to work on, but everything felt pretty solid last night. I felt like I repeated my delivery well, I executed more pitches. Especially when I'd fall behind in the count I'd execute quality pitches and you can get yourself out of bad situations doing that.”

The Knights made two roster moves on Friday -- Yoan Moncada was activated off the seven-day disabled list and Ryan Raburn was traded to the Washington Nationals for cash or a player to be named later.

James Shields throws again as White Sox place Dylan Covey on 10-day DL

James Shields throws again as White Sox place Dylan Covey on 10-day DL

Dylan Covey is already the sixth White Sox pitcher to be placed on the 10-day disabled list this season. The club announced Friday that Covey is headed to the DL just as one of the pitchers already there, James Shields, took another step forward in his rehab.

Shields threw his second bullpen in three days on Friday and hopes to begin a minor-league rehab assignment after he throws a three-inning, game-situation-like bullpen on Monday.

The White Sox promoted reliever Juan Minaya to take Covey’s spot on the 25-man roster. They also announced Tyler Danish would be the 26th man for Saturday’s doubleheader and manager Rick Renteria said Covey’s scheduled start Monday would be filled internally. Reliever David Holmberg could make the start.

“I’m full bore,” Shields said. “Everything is working really well and everything feels good. Ready to rock and roll.

“It’s been pretty tough for me. I’m pretty anxious. I want to be out there and help my team win. But at the end of the day I have to stick to the process. You know the team was really doing good up until this last road trip. Now we need to pick it back up. I’m looking forward to coming back and helping the squad out.”

Covey isn’t surprised he landed on the DL.

He missed much of the 2016 season with a left oblique strain and knew exactly what he was experiencing when he felt the tug on Tuesday. But Covey remembers the early portion of last year’s injury and thinks he’s in better shape now.

“Well, my first thought was, ‘Oh, no. I did it again,’” Covey said. “It’s kind of looking like it might not be nearly as bad as it was last year. So I’m staying optimistic and taking it day by day.”

“I think if I tried to push it another pitch like I did last year, it could have maybe worsened the situation. So I’m glad I was able to hold back a little bit.”

Minaya -- who pitched in 11 games for the 2016 White Sox -- missed roughly five weeks with an abdominal tear. Though he wanted to race back (he struck out nine in 5 2/3 innings this spring), Minaya knew he had to be practical about his rehab. Once healthy, Minaya pitched well at Triple-A Charlotte, where he posted a 1.23 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.

“I took a little while but we’re going through the process and we have to be patient and do everything they say to get healthy,” Minaya said. “We have to do the right thing to be healthy.”

“I feel very happy with myself because I’m working to get back here and I see the progress and I feel very happy.”

Minaya gives the White Sox nine relievers on their 13-man staff. That amount would make it much easier for the team to fill Covey’s first turn in the rotation with a bullpen game on Monday. A career starter who only began to pitch in relief this season, Holmberg could give the White Sox several innings to start. While Renteria won’t name any candidates for the series opener against the Boston Red Sox, he did suggest it would be an internal candidate.

“We’ll probably end up filling with one of our own guys,” Renteria said.