Contreras with the Philadelphia Phillies
|Born: December 6, 1971|
Las Martinas, Pinar del Río, Cuba
|March 31, 2003, for the New York Yankees|
|Last MLB appearance|
|May 27, 2013, for the Pittsburgh Pirates|
|Earned run average||4.57|
|Career highlights and awards|
José Ariel Contreras Camejo (born December 6, 1971), is a Cuban former professional baseball pitcher, who played in the Cuban National Series (CNS), Major League Baseball (MLB), and internationally for the Cuban national baseball team.
Contreras played for Pinar del Río Vegueros of the CNS, and competed for the Cuban national team in the Summer Olympics, the Pan American Games, the Baseball World Cup, and the 1999 exhibition series against the Baltimore Orioles. Recognized as the best Cuban baseball player, Contreras defected from Cuba in 2002.
Contreras signed with the New York Yankees of MLB after defecting, and played for them in 2003 and 2004. He also played in MLB for the Chicago White Sox (2004-2009), Colorado Rockies (2009), Philadelphia Phillies (2010-2012), and Pittsburgh Pirates (2013).
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.
In March 1999, Contreras pitched for the Cuban national baseball team against the Baltimore Orioles in an exhibition series at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. 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 Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, leading the Yankees to sign him to a four-year deal on December 26, 2002.
Contreras went 7-2 and posted a 3.30 ERA, but 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. Cellular Field, in which he shut out the White Sox for eight innings while striking out nine. Contreras appeared in the 8 postseason games, pitching 11 innings total, with a 5.73 ERA striking out 17.
The Yankees inserted Contreras into the starting rotation from the start of the 2004 camp, but he was inconsistent. Contreras was optioned to the minor leagues for approximately a month (May 5 through May 21). His best start occurred on June 27, against the New York Mets. He struck out ten batters, but what was more important to him is that for the first time since being in Cuba, Contreras got to pitch in front of his ex-wife, Miriam and daughters, Naylan and Naylenis.
On July 31, 2004 Contreras was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Contreras pitched 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 finished with a 5.50 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 170 innings between New York and Chicago.
The 2005 season began with mixed results for Contreras. Contreras started the season with five consecutive no-decisions and an ERA of 3.04, 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 2005 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 also contributed 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 finished the season 15-7 with a 3.61 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 204 innings.
Contreras started Game 1 of every series during the playoffs. He won 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 went 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.
The 2006 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 held by LaMarr Hoyt (1983-84) and Wilson Álvarez (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.
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.
Contreras ruptured his Achilles Tendon on August 9, 2008 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.
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 January 28, 2010, Contreras signed a 1-year, $1.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. He pitched out of the bullpen rather than being a starter as he had for much of his career. He recorded his first career save against the Milwaukee Brewers after taking over the closer's role from the injured Brad Lidge. On October 29, 2012, the Phillies declined his 2013 option and he became a free agent. He went 1-0 with a 5.27 ERA with 13.2 innings pitched in 17 games after spending most of the season on the disabled list.
On February 23, 2013, Contreras signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training. He was released on June 13, 2013. He was re-signed on June 17, 2013. The Pirates released Contreras on July 18, 2013.
On July 19, 2013, the Boston Red Sox signed Contreras to a minor league contract.
Contreras signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers on December 5, 2013. The team granted the pitcher his release on March 22, 2014 when the club informed Contreras that he would not make the Opening Day roster.