A day after fellow Cuban Hernandez pitched well but lost in his return to the Bronx, Contreras looks to bring the Chicago White Sox a victory in the middle game of their series with the New York Yankees.
While El Duque suffered the loss in Monday night’s 3-2 White Sox defeat, his performance mirrored those from his time with the Yankees, whom he helped to three World Series titles. He pitched six innings, allowing three runs and only four hits.
The Yankees had high hopes that Contreras would follow El Duque in helping anchor a championship rotation when he was signed before the 2003 season, but he never approached that status after starring for years on the Cuban national team. Though he went 15-7 in almost two seasons with the Yankees, he posted an ERA of 5.02. He was especially inconsistent in 2004, pitching to a 5.64 ERA with 22 home runs allowed in 95 2-3 innings.
Another major problem were his performances against New York’s bitter AL East rival, the Boston Red Sox, against whom Contreras is 2-4 with an 11.67 ERA in his career. The Yankees eventually gave up and traded Contreras to Chicago for right-hander Esteban Loaiza at last year’s trade deadline.
“He struggled somewhat here. We certainly saw signs of dominant stuff at times,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “A lot of players and pitchers have benefited from leaving New York—and it doesn’t mean they couldn’t play here.”
Contreras has been only slightly better for the White Sox than he was for the Yankees. Entrenched as Chicago’s fifth starter behind Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Hernandez, he is 6-6 with a 4.41 ERA in 22 starts this season.
Contreras said he has no negative feelings about his time with the Yankees and respects all their current players.
“But as soon as I step through those lines, no more friends,” Contreras said through a translator recently. “This is my team now. I feel at home. Whether it’s the Red Sox or the Yankees, I’m going out to battle.”
The Yankees moved a season-high 10 games above .500 with Monday’s win. Alex Rodriguez staked New York to a 2-0 first-inning lead with a two-run home run off Hernandez as the Yankees remained 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East.
Aaron Rowand made two spectacular catches and had an RBI double for the White Sox, who own the major leagues’ best record but are 4-4 in August.