Jose Contreras passed his first big test upon returning to the majors last weekend.
Now, the New York Yankees are hoping he can display the consistency that will make him a regular in their rotation for the remainder of the season.
Contreras hopes to build on his best outing of what has been a turbulent early season when the Yankees try to complete a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Contreras, handed the fourth spot in the Yankees’ rotation out of spring training, went 1-2 with a 9.47 ERA in his first five outings, forcing management to send him down to the minors May 4 to work on his mechanics.
The Cuban right-hander spent several weeks under the guidance of organizational pitching guru Billy Connors, and came back with an impressive performance Saturday. Contreras yielded one run and three hits over six solid innings in the Yankees’ 4-3 loss at Texas. He surrendered a first-inning homer to Alfonso Soriano, but settled down thereafter, striking out a season-high seven and walking two.
“He didn’t seem to change his rhythm. He had a good tempo going, and he kept it up the whole game,” manager Joe Torre said of Contreras. “Today was big-time stuff. This wasn’t an ordinary game. He had dominating stuff.”
Kevin Brown was orginally slated to start the series finale, was took an excused leave of absence from the team to tend to personal business. Contreras will be pitching on the regular four days’ rest. He was scheduled to pitch Friday in Tampa Bay.
Gary Sheffield went 4-for-5 with a homer and six RBIs on Wednesday to lead the Yankees to a wild 12-9 win over Baltimore in a game that featured 30 hits, five home runs and a 65-minute rain delay. The Yankees blew a 7-3 lead by allowing six runs in the sixth before rallying against the Baltimore bullpen for five runs in the seventh.
Sheffield, who came in mired in a 3-for-17 slump, also drew a walk in his most productive outing since joining New York as a free agent in December. The six RBIs were one short of his career high.