Cotts deal is offiicial

The Brewers finalized their one-year pact with free-agent reliever Neal Cotts on Friday, adding the veteran left-hander to a bullpen that could see at least one more new arm added before the start of Spring Training.

To make room on a full 40-man roster, the Brewers designated utility man Elian Herrera for assignment.

Cotts, who turns 35 in March, will replace Zach Duke in Milwaukee’s bullpen as a second left-handed option alongside Will Smith. The Brewers struck gold last year with Duke, who inked a Minor League contract in January, made the team out of Spring Training and, for a relatively modest $850,000, delivered a 2.45 ERA over 74  appearances, struck out more than four batters for every walk and held left-handed hitters to a .198 average.

Duke parlayed his strong 2014 season in Milwaukee into a three-year, $15 million contract with the White Sox earlier this offseason. The Brewers had interest in bringing back Duke, but they could not match that financial commitment. They had been searching the market for left-handed relief ever since.

Because of Duke’s history as a starting pitcher, manager Ron Roenicke was comfortable using him against hitters from both sides of the plate. The same could prove true of Cotts, who has been a reliever most of his career but has fared better against right-handed batters (.703 OPS) than lefties (.753). Last season, right-handed hitters compiled a .680 OPS against Cotts, compared to .775 for left-handers. In his excellent 2013 season, right-handers had a .436 OPS against him and left-handers were at .565.

The Brewers’ top options against tough left-handed handers could include Smith (.516 OPS last season, .681 career) and right-handed reliever Brandon Kintzler (.648 OPS last season, .624 career).

Injuries kept Cotts out of the Major Leagues for three seasons from 2010-12, but he returned in ‘13 to post a career year for the Rangers, sporting a 1.11 ERA in 58 appearances while striking out 65 batters in 57 innings. He regressed last season, posting a 4.32 ERA that was closer to his career mark of 4.05.

Cotts is 20-24 in 415 games (five starts) in nine Major League seasons with the White Sox, Cubs and Rangers.

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