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José Ariel Contreras Camejo (born December 6, 1971 in Las Martinas, Pinar del Río, Cubamarker) is a right-handed Major League Baseball starting pitcher who is currently a free agent. He previously played for the New York Yankees (2003-04), the Chicago White Sox (2004-09) as well as the Cuban national team.

Cuban years

In addition to his time with the Cuban national team, Contreras pitched for the Pinar del Río Vegueros of Cuba's Cuban National Series. In his last season in Cuba (2001-2002), he went 13-4 with a 1.76 ERA and 149 strikeouts. Contreras was named Cuban Athlete of the Year on three separate occasions.

Professional career

In March 1999 José Contreras pitched for the Cuban national team against the Baltimore Orioles in front of his countrymen at Estadio Latinoamericanomarker in Havanamarker. Contreras pitched eight shutout innings and struck out ten. It was then that Major League scouts took notice of the Cuban pitcher.

Contreras defected from Cuba in October 2002 while pitching for the Cuban national team during the Americas Series in Saltillomarker, Coahuilamarker, Mexicomarker, leading the Yankees to sign him to a four year deal on December 26, 2002.

Major League Baseball career

2003 with Yankees

The season was rough for Contreras, although he was 7-2 and posted a 3.30 ERA, he spent two months on the disabled list with a subscapularis strain, had four stops in the minor leagues, and was in and out of the bullpen. While a starter, Contreras was 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA. Out of the bullpen he was 1-1 with a 7.43 ERA. His best game occurred on September 23 at U.S.marker Cellular Fieldmarker, in which he shut out the White Sox for eight innings while striking out nine. Contreras would also appear in the 8 postseason games 11 innings total, with a 5.73 ERA striking out 17.

2004: End with New York, new beginning in Chicago

The Yankees inserted Contreras into the starting rotation from the start of the camp, but he was inconsistent. Contreras was optioned to the minor leagues for approximately a month (May 5 May 21). His best start occurred on June 27, against the New York Mets. He struck out ten batters, but what was more important is that for the first time since being in Cuba, Contreras got to pitch in front of his wife, Miriam and daughters, Naylan and Naylenis. On July 31, 2004 Contreras was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Contreras would pitch inconsistently for the White Sox, up until the end of the season. On the last day of the season, he threw eight innings of two hit baseball earning his 13th win of the season. He would finish with a 5.50 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings between New York and Chicago.

2005: Breakout season

The 2005 season began with mixed results for Contreras. Contreras started the season with five consecutive no-decisions and an ERA of 3.04, and but pitched poorly after that until the All-Star break, with a 4-3 record. The first game after the break (July 14), Contreras pitched extremely well, beating the Indians 1-0. As the White Sox raced to the playoffs in the second half of the season, Contreras became Chicago's most reliable pitcher, winning his last 8 starts and on occasion halting the team's losing streaks. One of the main reasons was the way he pitched. With the help of fellow Cuban Orlando Hernández, Contreras began dropping his arm angle during his delivery. Contreras would also contribute the 3 postseason victories that tied Andy Pettitte for the most second half victories in the Major Leagues with 11, and he threw his first Major League complete game against the Minnesota Twins, on September 23 Contreras would finish the season 15-7 with a 3.61 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings.

Contreras started Game 1 of every series during the playoffs. He would win two of the three Game 1's. The one he lost was to the Los Angeles Angels, this allowed Contreras to earn the win in the pennant clinching Game 5, the fourth consecutive complete game for White Sox starting pitching. Contreras would go 3-1, with a 3.09 ERA, 14 strikeouts, and only two walks. During Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, television commentators said that Contreras, who started the game for the White Sox, had his name banned from being mentioned in Cuba by order of President Fidel Castro. White Sox games were also banned from Cuban television and could be seen only with illegal television satellites. The White Sox went on to win the World Series in 4 games.

2006: In pursuit of history

The season began with Contreras inking a three year contract extension to remain on the South Side. Contreras started the season as well as he had finished the previous one. As of July 6, 2006, he was 9-0, with a 3.31 ERA and 71 strikeouts. On June 17, in an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds, José pitched 6 innings and threw a career high 13 strikeouts as he broke the White Sox team record with his 16th consecutive regular-season win (previously 15 held by LaMarr Hoyt (1983-84) and Wilson Alvarez (1993-94)). Dating back to the 2005 season, Contreras won 17 consecutive games before finally taking the loss against his former team, the New York Yankees on July 14, 2006. Contreras was named by his White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén to the 2006 American League All-Star team, but was unable to play because he had thrown 6 innings and 117 pitches in a start just two days before the All-Star game. Guillen, the AL manager, replaced him with Minnesota Twins rookie Francisco Liriano. This enabled Contreras to become the first pitcher in 30 years to start 2 consecutive regularly scheduled games.

Contreras suffered setback as a case of sciatica put him on the 15-day DL in May. Along with seeing his personal winning streak come to an end, Contreras finished the season with a 4.27 ERA, including a 5.40 ERA after the All-Star break.

2007

Contreras struggled mightily in the 2007 campaign along with the disappointing White Sox team who finished fourth place in the American League Central Division. He posted a 10-17 record with a 5.57 ERA. One positive note for Contreras were the career-high 2 shutouts recorded on May 10 against the Minnesota Twins and on September 19 against the Kansas City Royals.

2008

Contreras ruptured his Achilles Tendon on August 9, while attempting to field a ground ball against the Boston Red Sox. The White Sox placed him on the 15-day disabled list, and Contreras ended up missing the rest of the season.

2009

After an 0-5 start to the season, Contreras was sent to bullpen status on May 9, 2009. On May 10, 2009 he was sent to the minors. On May 12, 2009, Contreras cleared waivers and was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte Knights. On June 8, 2009, Contreras was called up after the first game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers to start the second game.Coincidentally, Jeremy Bonderman was also called up after the first game to face Contreras. Contreras threw an outstanding eight innings and only gave up one hit and one walk, with three strikeouts, resulting in his first win. In his second start after a brief stint in the minors Contreras was equally, if not more, dominant than his last appearance. Notching his second consecutive victory, Jose threw eight innings of shutout baseball once again, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out eight. On August 31, 2009, Contreras was traded to the Colorado Rockies with cash for minor league pitcher Brandon Hynick.

References

  1. http://espn.go.com/chicago/columns/blog?post=4156139&name=levine
  2. http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/chi-12-white-sox-bits-chicagomay12,0,1194936.story Sox's Jose Contreras clears waivers, sent to minors
  3. http://espn.go.com/chicago/columns/blog?post=4242139&name=levine Frustration mounts
  4. http://content.usatoday.com/communities/fantasywindup/post/2009/06/67833171/1 Today's matchups: Bonderman back on the mound
  5. http://www.southsidesox.com/2009/6/13/908566/jose-contreras-earns-his-way-back Jose Contreras Earns His Way Back Into ChiSox Rotation
  6. White Sox deal Thome, Contreras


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