Nationals sign veteran lefty Cotts to minor league deal

The Nationals are bringing another veteran left-hander into the fray to compete for a bullpen job this spring, signing Neal Cotts to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp, a source familiar with the deal confirmed.

Cotts, who turns 37 in March, owns a 3.96 ERA in 483 career appearances since 2003, most of those coming with the White Sox and Rangers.

He did not pitch in the majors last season, splitting 41 appearances among the Triple-A affiliates of the Angels, Yankees and Rangers and finishing with a 4.03 ERA.

baseballs-in-bin-sidebar.jpgCotts has been more than a traditionally matchup reliever throughout his career. He has faced right-handed batters slightly more than left-handed batters over the years and owns similar numbers against hitters from each side of the plate. Lefties bat .239 with a .729 OPS against him, while righties bat .244 with a .727 OPS against him.

The Nationals already have two left-handed relievers likely to make the opening day roster in Sammy Solis and Oliver Perez (who is under contract for $4 million), but there could be an available spot for one more lefty.

Cotts figures to serve as something of a replacement for Sean Burnett, the veteran left-hander who came to camp last spring on a minor league deal, didn’t make the club but wound up pitching for the Nationals in September. Burnett signed a minor league contract with the Phillies this winter.

Cotts’ deal with the Nationals was first reported by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports.

Note: Nick Rickles, a catcher in the Nationals organization, announced he will be playing for Israel in this spring’s World Baseball Classic. Rickles, 26, hit .228 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 24 games for Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse last season. Originally a 14th-round pick of the Athletics in the 2011 draft, he has previously played for Israel in WBC qualifying rounds in both 2013 and 2016.

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