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Cotts doesn't get out of 1st in Sox loss
Manager Jerry Manuel might have given his critics a year's worth of material by starting rookie Neal Cotts on Thursday instead of Mark Buehrle.
Or the issue could die if Buehrle beats the Tigers on Friday night in Detroit.
What is clear is the first half of the experiment didn't work.
Cotts looked helpless in his fourth career start, retiring just one of the eight batters he faced in a 7-5 loss to the Yankees.
And Manuel probably didn't add any supporters in the Sox's clubhouse.
"You always want to sweep if you have a chance," catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. said. "I think we did it this way because we've had some problems against Detroit and Buehrle always has pitched well against them."
Buehrle is 8-3 against the Tigers with a lifetime 1.88 ERA. But the 24-year-old lefty wanted to take the mound at Yankee Stadium on Thursday for the first time in his career.
Buehrle played it down the middle after the game, saying: "I could have done the same thing [as Cotts], if not worse. That's behind us. We just have to go to Detroit and take care of business there."
Manuel decided after Tuesday's 13-2 victory over the Yankees that he would determine Thursday's starter based on the results of the second game.
After the Sox won 11-2 Wednesday to secure a series victory, Manuel opted to give Buehrle, who had trouble warming up before his last start, an extra day of rest.
Manuel pointed out that Buehrle still would make the same number of starts this season and that Cotts, who entered the game with 13 walks in 13 innings, probably would have struggled even more Friday on six days' rest.
"If the same thing had happened in Detroit," Manuel said of Cotts, "we still would be talking about [a loss]."
Buehrle said the decision to start Cotts might have affected his confidence, given that he would not have gotten the ball if the series had been tied 1-1.
"I've never pitched here, either, so I might have had some nerves going too," Buehrle said. "I think a lot had to do with them saying he would pitch [only] if we win and showing that they might not have as much confidence in him as he thought they did.
"He has been pretty wild ever since he has been up here. I'm trying to calm him down and tell him to do what he did in Double A."
Cotts, who had been pitching at Double-A Birmingham as recently as Aug. 7, struggled from the start.
After the Sox scored twice on Carl Everett and Paul Konerko RBIs in the top of the first, Alfonso Soriano led off the bottom with a double. Then Cotts lost sight of the strike zone, walking Nick Johnson on four pitches and Derek Jeter on five.
Bernie Williams lashed an RBI single to left. Then Ruben Sierra lined an 0-1 changeup down the left-field line.
Carlos Lee misplayed the carom, earning an error that allowed an extra run to score. Just like that, the Yankees led 4-2.
After Hideki Matsui flied to center, Cotts walked Aaron Boone on a 3-2 pitch before misfiring four straight times to No. 8 hitter Juan Rivera.
That ended Cotts' day.
"I told him, 'Hang in there, you'll get another shot,'" Manuel said.
But it could be a while. With two days off next week, the Sox won't need a fifth starter until Sept. 9.
And Manuel said the Sox would consider replacing Cotts with right-hander Dan Wright, who pitched well in relief.
The Sox made a game of it with two runs in the eighth, but it wasn't enough. Cotts' rocky start was too much to overcome.
Players were not eager to debate the wisdom of Manuel's decision.
"I don't even get caught up in the lineup too much, let alone the pitching rotation," said Paul Konerko, who drove in two runs. "The way we were swinging [Thursday], I don't think it was a big deal."
Said Frank Thomas: "That's none of my business. I have nothing to do with that. We just have to win with whoever we're throwing."