Contreras, signed to a four-year, $32 million contract prior to the 2003 season, has been a major disappointment for the Yankees, struggling to find the consistency that made him one of the most attractive free agents on the market two winters ago.
The Cuban right-hander was handed a spot in New York’s rotation out of spring training this year, but went 1-2 with a 9.47 ERA in his first five starts, and the Yankees sent him down to the minors to work on his mechanics May 4.
Since his return on May 22, Contreras has gone 3-0 in five starts, lasting at least six innings in all but one of those outings. On Tuesday, he won his second straight start, allowing two runs and five hits over 6 2-3 innings in a 4-2 victory at Arizona.
“Right now, unfortunately everything you’re looking at is so magnified because of the problems he had early on, but I think he’s passing with pretty good grades,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Contreras, who struck out six and walked two Tuesday night.
The Yankees avenged Friday’s series-opening 6-3 loss with a 6-2 win on Saturday. Brad Halsey pitched 5 2-3 innings in his major league debut and Hideki Matsui hit a three-run homer off Hideo Nomo in the first inning as New York evened the first regular season series between the longtime World Series rivals.
New York ended its first two-game slide since late May, improving its lead in the AL East to 4 1/2 games over Boston.