Just not the way he wanted to.
The Yankees placed Contreras on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, retroactive to June 7, because of a strained right shoulder. The move creates another chapter in the ongoing saga involving the two men vying for the final spot in New York’s heralded rotation.
Acquired from Detroit last season in a three-way deal that sent Ted Lilly to Oakland, Weaver won the fifth spot over Contreras during spring training.
The 26-year-old right-hander opened the season 3-2 with a 4.78 ERA in eight starts.
Meanwhile, Contreras was struggling in the bullpen and was sent to the minors to work on his mechanics—a topic that created a rift between manager Joe Torre and meddlesome owner George Steinbrenner.
Torre wanted Contreras to develop at Triple-A Columbus. Steinbrenner overruled and sent the Cuban defector to the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Fla., to work with pitching guru Billy Connors.
Weaver struggled over his next three starts, going 0-2 with a 6.35 ERA. Contreras, however, starred in the minors before getting promoted and was handed the fifth spot in the rotation after three relief appearances.
With Weaver in the bullpen, Contreras allowed just two runs in winning his first two major league starts. He’ll likely regain his starting spot upon his return to the Yankees.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s going to take anything longer than two weeks,” Torre said of the injury.
However, Torre also lent his support to Weaver, saying, “I want Jeff to be a starter.”
The Yankees snapped a two-game skid with Tuesday’s 5-3 win in the first regular season meeting between the two teams. Mike Mussina stopped his four-game losing streak, Hideki Matsui had three hits and Jorge Posada hit a two-run homer as the Yankees broke the Astros’ seven-game winning trend.
Ensberg, the reigning NL player of the week, is batting .556 (15-for-27) over his last 10 games with six homers and 15 RBIs.
STANDINGS: Astros - 1st place (tied), NL Central. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
ASTROS PROBABLE STARTER: Roy Oswalt (4-4, 3.10 ERA). Oswalt is 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA over his last three starts, striking out a combined 25 and walking just two. The 25-year-old right-hander is coming off one of his best starts of the season, yielding one run and eight hits over seven innings of Thursday’s 11-1 win over Baltimore. Oswalt, who struck out 11 without issuing a walk in the win, makes his first career start against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Weaver (3-1, 4.62 ERA). Opponents have a .315 average and have a .370 on-base percentage against Weaver, who has struck out 44 and walked 22 in 71 1-3 innings. He makes his first career appearance against the Astros.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Astros - Jeff Kent, .319 avg. and 46 RBIs; Lance Berkman and Jeff Bagwell, 11 HRs; Berkman, 44 runs; Carl Everett, 6 SBs. Yankees - Alfonso Soriano, .299 avg., 18 HRs, 52 runs and 17 SBs; Posada, 44 RBIs.
INTERLEAGUE RECORD: Astros - 6-1; Yankees - 3-4.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Astros - 1B Bagwell has gone a career-high 125 at-bats without a home run. The Houston star doubled in four at-bats in his first game at Yankee Stadium. … OF Berkman has a 16-game hitting streak, batting .377 (23-for-61) with five homers and 15 RBIs during the run. His career best is 21 in 2001. … The Astros are 31-1 this season when leading after eight innings. Yankees - OF Matsui has 13 hits in his last 19 at-bats. … RHP Juan Acevedo was released Tuesday, three days after giving up a three-run homer that ruined RHP Roger Clemens’ bid for his 300th victory. … New York recalled RHP Jason Anderson from Columbus and purchased the contract of RHP Al Reyes from the Clippers to take the spots of RHPs Contreras and Acevedo.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Astros - 14-16 on the road; Yankees - 14-15 at home.
INJURIES: Astros - LHP Carlos Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Brian Moehler (forearm), 15-day DL. Yankees - RHP Contreras (shouder), 15-day DL; 1B Nick Johnson (wrist), 15-day DL; OF Bernie Williams (knee), 15-day DL; RHP Steve Karsay (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Jon Lieber (elbow), 60-day DL.