Contreras will make his second career start for the Yankees as they try to avoid getting swept by the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Contreras earned a second start after hurling seven innings of two-hit, six-strikeout ball in the Yankees’ 6-0 win over the Detroit Tigers on Friday.
New York manager Joe Torre liked what he saw Friday, leading him to replace righty Jeff Weaver in the rotation with Contreras.
“He deserves to start,” Torre said of Contreras. ”(Weaver) was a little down. That’s understandable. He’s just going to have to work his way back.”
Contreras is 2-1 with a 5.40 ERA. Weaver is 3-4 with a 5.17 ERA.
The Cuban right-hander was given a $32 million, four-year contract over the winter to be a starter, but he failed to make it into the rotation during the spring and was instead relegated to bullpen duty. Contreras, who was sent down to Triple-A Columbus after he struggled early in the pen, went 1-1 with a lofty 8.74 ERA in eight appearances before starting against Detroit.
The Yankees are hoping Contreras doesn’t fall victim to the long ball like teammate Mike Mussina did on Wednesday.
“In this ballpark, the ball flies out like Coors Field,” Mussina said. “It gets up in the air and you don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Yankees manager Joe Torre has other ideas why the Reds are in position to sweep, and they have nothing to do with the notion of hitter-friendly stadiums.
“They’re excited,” Torre said. “All of the talk has been about the big bad Yankees, the rich Yankees.”
The Yankees have lost eight of their last 12 overall to drop out of first place in the AL East.
STANDINGS: Yankees - 2nd place, 1/2 GB, AL East. Reds - 4th place, 2 1/2 GB, NL Central.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Contreras (2-1, 5.40 ERA). Contreras went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in four appearances in May. The 31-year-old right-hander has 20 strikeouts in 18 1-3 innings.
REDS PROBABLE STARTER: Danny Graves (3-4, 4.79 ERA). Graves is 0-2 with a 5.32 ERA over his last three starts. The former closer has been victimized by the long ball all season, allowing 12 home runs in 11 starts, including five in his last three outings. Despite allowing just three earned runs and nine hits over seven innings on Saturday, Graves was the losing pitcher in the Reds’ 3-2 defeat to Florida.
INTERLEAGUE RECORDS: Yankees - 0-2; Reds - 2-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Yankees - OF Bubba Trammell is 3-for-3 with a home run in his career against RHP Graves. … 1B Jason Giambi has homered in both games of the series. He’s batting .353 (6-for-17) with four homers and six RBIs over his last five games. … New York has won just 14 of its last 35 games. Reds - OF Griffey mildly strained his right biceps on a swing against RHP Mussina on Wednesday. He will probably will sit out the final game of the series, but isn’t expected to miss significant time. … Cincinnati has already matched its interleague win total from last season. The Reds went 2-10 in interleague play in 2002. … OF Kearns is tied for the NL lead in RBIs with 50.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Yankees - 20-10 on the road; Reds - 17-13 at home.
INJURIES: Yankees - 1B Nick Johnson (hand), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL. Reds - INF Ryan Freel (hamstring), 15-day DL; INF Barry Larkin (calf), 15-day DL; RHP Ryan Dempster (neck), 15-day DL; RHP Luke Prokopec (arm), 60-day DL.