Humberto Figueroa Cota
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 0", Weight 175 lb.
- High School Preparatoria Abierta High School
- Debut September 9, 2001
- Final Game May 28, 2007
- Born February 7, 1979 in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora Mexico
Signed as 16-year-old undrafted free agent by the Atlanta Braves in 1995, Humberto Cota. He was released early in 1997 and signed later that year by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He hit .241/.327/.346 that year for the GCL Devil Rays and was 2 for 9 for the Hudson Valley Renegades. In '98, Cota caught on fire for the Princeton Devil Rays, batting .310/~.387/.580 with 15 homers and 61 RBI in 67 games. He was two homers behind Appalachian League leader Manny Lutz and made the league All-Star team at catcher; Baseball America picked him as the #4 prospect in the league, right behind C.C. Sabathia.
Cota began 1999 with the Charleston RiverDogs (.280/~.320/.429 in 85 games) and then was traded with Joe Oliver to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Jose Guillen and Jeff Sparks. He hit .271/~.370/.429 for the Hickory Crawdads in 37 games. At age 21, Cota batted .261/.297/.368 for the Altoona Curve with an Eastern League-leading 17 errors. In 2001, Humberto had a .297/.351/.477 for the Nashville Sounds with 72 RBI (most on the club). As the backup catcher for the World team in the Futures Game, he was 0 for 1. He made his major league debut with the 2001 Pirates, getting just nine at-bats.
With Jason Kendall ensconced behind the plate, Cota was back in AAA, putting up a .267/.321/.406 line for Nashville in a significant drop-off with 106 strikeouts. He only had 4 errors and his .994 fielding percentage was second-best in the Pacific Coast League. He hit .294/.333/.353 in seven games in Pittsburgh. Cota slipped further, to .205/.284/.370 for Nashville in 2003 and .250/.294/.312 in 10 games in a Pirates uniform.
Humberto was Kendall's backup on the 2004 Pirates, hitting .227/.271/.500 with five homers in 66 AB. His primary role was as Oliver Perez's personal catcher, a role he got during that year and would hold through all of 2005 and early 2006. When Kendall was traded the next year, Cota became the backup to newly-signed Benito Santiago. Santiago quickly threw a hissy fit and left the team, making an opportunity for Cota, who hit .242/.285/.387 for the 2005 Pirates. By year's end, though, Ryan Doumit had taken over as the regular catcher, giving them slightly better contact, similar power and better OBP abilities. Picked to play for Mexico in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, he did not make the 30-man roster and did not appear for the club.
In 2006, Cota started as the backup to Doumit then became the sub for Ronny Paulino. He only hit .190/.248/.200 and had the lowest average of any major-leaguer to get 100+ AB during the '06 campaign. While some expected Cota to not return in 2007, he beat out Einar Diaz and Carlos Maldonado for the role as backup to Paulino. On June 15, 2007 Cota accepted an assignment to be sent down to the Pirates' AAA team, the Indianapolis Indians. Cota had been doing okay in the majors - .289/.389/.357 - but only had played five games, due to the emergence of Ryan Doumit to split the catching role with Paulino. Cota wore number 11 during his time in Pittsburgh, the last player to wear the number, which was retired in July of 2007 in honor of Paul Waner. Cota hit .284/.330/.347 in 30 games for Indianapolis before season-ending surgery on his left shoulder.
Cota signed a minor league deal with Tampa Bay in November of 2007. In May of 2008, he was handed a 50-game suspension for testing positive for banned performance-enhancing substances.
Sources include 1998-2006 Baseball Almanacs