The Cuban right-hander will make his return from a short stint in the minors when the Yankees continue a three-game series with the Texas Rangers.
Contreras, signed to a four-year, $32 million deal prior to last season after defecting from Cuba, went 7-2 with a 3.30 ERA in 18 appearances, including nine starts, as a rookie. He was named the Yankees’ fourth starter during spring training after Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and David Wells left the team in the offseason.
However, Contreras struggled to maintain his spot, going 1-2 with a 9.47 ERA in five starts, failing to go more than six innings in any of his outings. He lasted just two innings in New York’s 10-8 win at Oakland on May 4, surrendering a season-high seven runs and four hits, while walking four and striking out two.
The performance prompted Yankees management to send Contreras down to Tampa, Fla., where he worked under the tutelage of organizational pitching guru Billy Connors. Contreras tried to figure out whatever mechanical problems he was having during two starts for Triple-A Columbus, going 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA.
In his last start, he struck out 12, but threw two wild pitches and allowed five stolen bases, including a rare triple steal.
Despite the erratic effort, the Yankees will give Contreras the ball Saturday against the Rangers.
“Both (Connors) and (senior vice president of player personnel) Gordon Blakeley felt that he was ready to pitch, that he had better command of himself and stayed aggressive through most of the game,” Torre said. “After the type of start he had, they figured they’d bring him back and give it a shot.
“There’s nothing better than having a couple of games where you feel pretty good about yourself. We’re going to look for that Saturday. We’re looking for a guy on the mound who is going to say, ‘I dare you to hit me.”’
Torre also said Contreras will remain in the rotation regardless of how he pitches Saturday.
Alex Rodriguez was the focus of attention Friday as he made his return to Texas after the blockbuster deal that sent him to New York in February. The reigning AL MVP homered in his first at-bat, blasting a two-run shot, but the Yankees squandered an early three-run lead in a 9-7 loss to the Rangers.