Jose Contreras reunited with his wife and two daughters earlier this week after a 20-month separation.
Contreras’ family will finally get a chance to watch him pitch in the United States when the New York Yankees face the crosstown-rival Mets in the first game of the teams’ day-night doubleheader.
When rain washed out the scheduled series opener Friday night, Contreras’ start was pushed back a day.
Contreras, a former star on the Cuban national team, has yet to show the sustained brilliance the Yankees thought him capable of when they signed him to a four-year, $32 million contract.
He has found himself under a cloud of uncertainty since he defected in October 2002, and it appeared to affect his pitching at times.
Contreras struggled with his command earlier this season, and was sent to the minors from May 4-22 to work on mechanics. He had a similar trip to the Yankees’ complex in Tampa last season.
The right-hander has won three of his five starts since returning to the big club and is 4-3 with a 6.18 ERA overall. The Yankees are hoping he can be more consistent now that he won’t be worried about his family.
“I think we’ll see a different Jose Contreras,” Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said. “He’ll be much more relaxed now.”
Contreras thinks so, too.
“I think I’m going to be a lot more relaxed, a lot more tranquil now,” Contreras said.
The Yankees will be looking for a strong outing from Contreras when they try to bounce back from a 9-3 loss in the series opener on Saturday.
Jason Phillips doubled past Alex Rodriguez at third for a 3-2 lead, Jose Reyes followed with an RBI single on an 0-2 pitch and had a key stolen base. Kaz Matsui then hit a two-run single that opened a 6-2 lead. Every Mets starter except Mike Cameron had a hit.
“They beat us up,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “There’s not much to talk about. We couldn’t get them out.”
Derek Jeter, celebrating his 30th birthday, was a quiet 2-for-4 for the Yankees, who are 24-13 against the Mets in the regular season since interleague play began in 1997, including 6-0 last year.
“It’s important to get that first one,” Mets manager Art Howe said. “Last year, we didn’t get any.”