José Contreras

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.

José Contreras
Contreras with the Philadelphia Phillies
Born: (1971-12-06) December 6, 1971
Las Martinas, Pinar del Río, Cuba
Batted: Right
Threw: Right
MLB debut
March 31, 2003, for the New York Yankees
Last MLB appearance
May 27, 2013, for the Pittsburgh Pirates
MLB statistics
Win–loss record78–67
Earned run average4.57
Career highlights and awards
Men’s Baseball
Representing  Cuba
Summer Olympics
1996 Atlanta Team
2000 Sydney Team
Pan American Games
1999 Winnipeg Team
Baseball World Cup
1998 Italy Team
2001 Taipei Team
Intercontinental Cup
1995 Havana Team
1997 Barcelona Team
Central American and Caribbean Games
1998 Maracaibo 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).

Cuban career

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.[1] 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.[2] It was then that Major League scouts took notice of the Cuban pitcher.[3]

Major League Baseball career

New York Yankees

Contreras defected from Cuba in October 2002 while pitching for the Cuban national team during the Americas Series in Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico,[4] leading the Yankees to sign him to a four-year, $32 million deal on December 26, 2002.[5]

Contreras went 7–2 and posted a 3.30 ERA in 18 games (nine starts), but he spent two months on the disabled list with a subscapularis strain,[6][7] had four stops in the minor leagues, and was in and out of the bullpen.[8] As a starter, Contreras was 6–1 with a 2.34 ERA. Out of the bullpen, he was 1–1 with a 7.43 ERA.[9] 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.[10] Contreras appeared in eight postseason games, pitching 11 innings total, with a 5.73 ERA striking out 17.[11]

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.[12]

Chicago White Sox

On July 31, 2004, Contreras was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Esteban Loaiza.[13] 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 against the Kansas City Royals, earning his 13th win of the season.[14] He finished with a 13–9 record, a 5.50 ERA, and 150 strikeouts in 17013 innings between New York and Chicago.[8]

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.[15]

Contreras pitching in the playoffs in 2005

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 eight 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 three 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.[16] Contreras finished the season 15–7 with a 3.61 ERA in 32 starts, along with 154 strikeouts in 20423 innings.[8]

Contreras pitching for the White Sox in 2008

Contreras started Game 1 of every series during the playoffs, winning two out of his three Game 1 starts. The one he lost was to the Los Angeles Angels,[17] which allowed Contreras to earn the win in the pennant clinching Game 5, the fourth consecutive complete game for White Sox starting pitching.[18] Contreras went 3–1 with a 3.09 ERA, 14 strikeouts, and only two walks in four starts during the postseason.[11] 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.[19] The White Sox went on to win the World Series in four games, sweeping the Houston Astros.[20]

The 2006 season began with Contreras inking a three-year, $29 million contract extension to remain on the South Side.[21] 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 23, in a 7–4 win over the Astros, Contreras pitched 6.1 innings and allowed four earned runs to earn the win, breaking the White Sox team record with his 16th consecutive regular-season win, previously held by LaMarr Hoyt (1983–84) and Wilson Álvarez (1993–94).[22] 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.[23] 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 six 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.[24] This enabled Contreras to become the first pitcher in 30 years to start two consecutive regularly scheduled games.

Contreras suffered setback as a case of sciatica put him on the 15-day DL in May.[25] Along with seeing his personal winning streak come to an end, Contreras finished the season with 13–7 with a 4.27 ERA in 30 starts,[8] including a 5.40 ERA after the All-Star break.[26]

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 in 32 games (30 starts).[8] One positive note for Contreras were the career-high two shutouts recorded on May 10 against the Minnesota Twins and on September 19 against the Kansas City Royals.[27][28]

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.[29]

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.[30] On May 12, 2009, Contreras cleared waivers and was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte Knights.[31] On June 8, 2009, Contreras was called up after the first game of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers to start the second game.[32] Coincidentally, Jeremy Bonderman was also called up after the first game to face Contreras.[33] Contreras threw an outstanding eight innings and only gave up one hit and one walk, with three strikeouts, resulting in his first win.[34] 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, he threw eight innings of shutout baseball once again, giving up two hits and two walks while striking out eight.[35]

Colorado Rockies

On August 31, 2009, Contreras was traded to the Colorado Rockies with cash for minor league pitcher Brandon Hynick.[36]

Philadelphia Phillies

On January 28, 2010, Contreras signed a one-year, $1.5 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.[37] 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 on May 15 against the Milwaukee Brewers after taking over the closer's role from the injured Brad Lidge.[38] After the 2010 season, Contreras signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract with an option for 2013 to remain with the Phillies.[39] On October 29, 2012, the Phillies declined his 2013 option and he became a free agent.[40] 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.[8]

Pittsburgh Pirates

On February 23, 2013, Contreras signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training.[41] He was released on June 13, 2013.[42] Contreras was re-signed on June 17, 2013, but was later released again on July 18, 2013.[43]

Boston Red Sox

On July 19, 2013, the Boston Red Sox signed Contreras to a minor league contract.[44]

Texas Rangers

Contreras signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers on December 5, 2013.[45][46] 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.[47]

Toros de Tijuana

Contreras joined Toros de Tijuana on March 20, 2014 and played for the Toros during the 2014 and 2015 Mexican League seasons.[48]

China Trust Brothers

Contreras debuted for the China Trust Brothers on July 5, 2015 and won the MVP of July 2015. He only made seven starts with the Brothers and was 4–1 with a 3.45 ERA.[49] He last pitched on August 30, 2015 and was assigned to be a visiting pitching coach the next day in order to make room for Víctor Gárate to meet the limit for foreign pitchers on the team. Having the desire to pitch, he declined the offer to be a pitching coach for the next year.

Tigres de Quintana Roo

On March 28, 2016, Contreras signed with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League.[50]

See also

  • List of baseball players who defected from Cuba
  • List of Major League Baseball players from Cuba
  • List of Olympic Games gold medalists who won World Series
  • List of Olympic medalists in baseball
  • List of World Series starting pitchers


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