White Sox host old friends as Rangers roll into town

A.J. Pierzynski and Neal Cotts: Reunited against significant odds. - Bob Levey

A.J. Pierzynski, Neal Cotts and Alex Rios return to Chicago for weekend series

The Texas Rangers come to town for their first and only series in Chicago this season, and they're carrying more members of the White Sox's 2005 championship team than the 2013 White Sox are.

They're in better shape, too.

A.J. Pierzynski headlines this list, but Neal Cotts has reemerged, and both are pulling their weight. Paul Konerko, on the other hand, missed Thursday's game due to a bad reaction from an anti-inflammatory, resulting in a late scratch:

Told that the buzz over Twitter regarding the late scratch was that he had been traded, Konerko laughed.

"Yeah, I had been traded to another world for awhile," he said. "There were three hours I was kind of misplaced. I was out of it in the trainer’s room, and the next thing I know I look up and it’s like the fourth inning."

It's been that kind of year.

Alex Rios is in tow, too, thanks to a trade you might have read about. Between the return of the World Series heroes, the variably appreciated Rios and the Civil Rights Game on Saturday, the weekend promises to offer a unique dynamic.

Here's a brief rundown of what the former Sox have contributed to the Rangers this season:

A.J. Pierzynski


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2013 - A.J. Pierzynski 100 376 37 105 17 1 14 52 10 56 1 1 .279 .306 .441

Give Pierzynski credit: He's aging exactly as the best bet predicted. He's still selling out for pulling the ball and power, and it might not be nearly as effective this year (OPS+ of 99), especially since he's walking even less than usual (he recently ended a streak of 142 consecutive plate appearances without a walk. Still, it's working well enough for a catcher).

There doesn't appear to be much different about his defense, either, if this tweet from Adam Morris at Lone Star Ball sounds familiar:

His caught-stealing rate is the same as ever, his passed-pitch count is in the neighborhood, and his pitch-framing has dropped off. Aging as usual there, too.

The WAR systems put in the neighborhood of 1.3-1.4 WAR, which is commensurate with his $7.5 million salary. Basically, everything about Pierzynski's 2013 season is exceedingly reasonable compared to his track record, and that's a talent.

If the Sox were on the verge of contending, they might have regretted not re-signing him for another year, given the failure of Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley's rough introduction. But he wouldn't have been a difference-maker in Chicago unless all of his hits were timely, so the parting of ways seemed to work out best for everybody, even though the Sox can't take much solace in that right now in terms of the standings.

Neal Cotts


W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2013 - Neal Cotts 5-2 40 0 0 0 1 2 41.2 27 7 6 2 14 48 1.30 0.98

Cotts is a candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, and he endured more than a bad 2012. He struggled to bounce back from an awful 2009, which ended in July with Tommy John surgery, and his 2010 was even worse.

Just as Cotts rounded back into pitching shape, he had surgery to repair a tear in his hip. An infection invaded the area and required Cotts to bear three additional surgeries over the course of one week in June 2010.

The Pirates, who had signed Cotts the previous winter, released him before the conclusion of the 2010 campaign. Cotts' agent, Joe Bick, shopped the reliever's credentials around the league, but to no avail. Teams were skeptical that the lefty could pass a physical.

He finally found a taker with Texas, but he had to re-earn his stripes. He spent all of 2012 in Triple-A, and the first month and a half of 2013 as well. When he returned to the big leagues, he somehow rediscovered his 2005 form, as his numbers indicate. True to form, he's still tougher on righties (.454 OPS) than lefties (.561)

Cotts' story has generated numerous profiles, and a couple more after that, and he deserves the attention. He could be very well finishing up a finance degree at Illinois State right now if he didn't give it one more shot.

Alex Rios


G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2013 - Alex Rios 11 44 6 12 1 1 0 3 2 6 4 0 .273 .304 .341

If Rios' line looks familiar, it's because it's basically what he did for the White Sox across June and July.

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