St. Louis Cardinals

Lebanon’s Cotts ready to pitch for Brewers

So far, so good for Lebanon native Neal Cotts.

Cotts, in his first season with the Milwaukee Brewers, has pitched in four games and owns seven strikeouts and a 2.08 ERA in his first 4 1/3 innings.

“Being close to home (Chicago), I’m able to get back to the city whenever I need to or want to,” Cotts said Wednesday at Busch Stadium, where the Brewers are playing a three-game series against the St. Louis Cardinals. “We have a good clubhouse. It’s a great fit. Hopefully, we’ll get going team-wise and get some wins. It’s early. I just (pitch) whenever they need me.”

Cotts, 35, signed a one-year, $3 million free-agent contract with the Brewers on Jan. 30, just two weeks before spring training. Cotts spent the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Texas Rangers after missing three consecutive years because of four surgeries on his right hip.

“I didn’t know many (of my teammates) coming over here,” said Cotts, who threw a scoreless sixth in a 4-2 loss to the Cardinals. “A lot of them were here before. I was one of the few new additions, maybe the only one that wasn’t here last year. It definitely was a little bit of a process, but it’s a good clubhouse in terms of being welcoming and making me feel like a part of it. It works out easy.”

Cotts doesn’t yet have a complete understanding of how he will be utilized by manager Ron Roenicke. He has finished one game and warmed up in the eighth inning of the Brewers’ 5-4 win over the Cardinals on Monday.

“Once we get going a little bit longer, it will pan out,” Cotts said. “I might end up being in that fifth, sixth (inning) role. I’m not sure how it will play out. I’m just happy to be here, get down there and be ready whenever need be.”

Cotts, a left-hander, isn’t considered a specialist, given that he possesses a cutter that has made him more effective against right-handed hitters in his career.

“That definitely helps out,” Cotts said. “But I think even before I threw it, my splits were better (against right-handers), even coming up in the minors. I don’t know why. Maybe being a starter, you face a lot of righties. You get used to them. I’m not sure. I feel comfortable against both.”

Being comfortable from a health standpoint is what Cotts needs the most. Two years ago with the Rangers, he enjoyed perhaps the best season of his career when he was 8-3 with a 1.11 ERA in 58 games. He struck out a career-high 65 in 57 innings and yielded just two home runs.

In 2005, Cotts was a rock in the Chicago White Sox bullpen as they won the World Series. That season, he was 4-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 69 games, allowing one homer in 60 1/3 innings.

“Cross my fingers, the last two years, it’s been great,” he said. “I’ve been able to be out there as much as they need me. I haven’t had any setbacks with my hip or my elbow, anything of that nature. I feel I can be effective as long as I keep myself in good shape.”

Wong is honest

Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, aware that second baseman Kolten Wong blamed himself for the loss Monday because of his two errors, said the reaction was “not necessary, but honest.”

“If that’s what the guy thinks, that’s what the guy should say unless he’s pointing the finger at somebody else,” Matheny said. “That’s something we don’t have much patience around here for. What he’s trying to do is make a statement to the ace of our staff (Adam Wainwright), to the team that’s listening and watching, to the fans that witnessed it, that it’s something he takes very personal. Not just that it was an error, not that it was just a run, but we had a loss, a big loss on Opening Day. He wants to take some of that on his own shoulders.”

Jackie Robinson Day

Players throughout the big leagues wore No. 42 on Wednesday to honor shortstop Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947, with the Brooklyn Dodgers.

“It was a turning point for our game and for our world,” Matheny said. “Just (his) courage. There’s been so many well-done movies and documentaries on the impact. He was the right person at the right time to do what he did.”

Robinson, who played 10 seasons for the Dodgers, died in 1972 at age 53. The six-time All-Star was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.

Back in routine

Barring a rainout, the Cardinals on Wednesday played the first of five consecutive games. Since Opening Day on April 5, they have had four off days, one of them being a rainout in Chicago.

“No one around here is complaining about off days,” Matheny said. “I know it would be easy to say it’s not getting us into the kind of groove (we want). But we’ve got all kinds of time for that.”

The Cardinals are about to embark on 20 games in 20 days against Washington, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and the Chicago Cubs.