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José Ariel Contreras Camejo (born December 6, 1971 in Las Martinas, Pinar del Río, Cuba) is a right-handed Major League Baseball starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox, nicknamed "The Count". He previously played for the New York Yankees (2003-2004) as well as the Cuban national team.
In addition to his time with the Cuban national team, Contreras pitched for the Pinar del Río Vegueros of Cuba's Cuban National Series. In his last season in Cuba (2001-2002), he went 13-4 with a 1.76 ERA and 149 strikeouts. Contreras was named Cuban Athlete of the Year on three separate occasions.
In March 1999 José Contreras pitched for the Cuban national team against the Baltimore Orioles in front of his countrymen at Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. Contreras pitched eight shutout innings and struck out ten. It was then that Major League scouts took notice of the Cuban pitcher.
Contreras defected from Cuba in October 2002 while pitching for the Cuban national team during the Americas Series in Santillo, Mexico, leading the Yankees to sign him to a four year deal on December 26, 2002.
2003 with YankeesEdit
The 2003 season was rough for Contreras, although he was 7-2 and posted a 3.30 ERA, he spent two months on the disabled list with a subscapularis strain, had four stops in the minor leagues, and was in and out of the bullpen. While a starter, Contreras was 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA. Out of the bullpen he was 1-1 with a 7.43 ERA. His best game occurred on September 23 at U.S. Cellular Field, in which he shut out the White Sox for eight innings while striking out nine. Contreras would also appear in the 8 postseason games 11 innings total, with a 5.73 ERA striking out 17. His record was 0-2.
2004: End with New York, new beginning in ChicagoEdit
The Yankees inserted Contreras into the starting rotation from the start of the 2004 camp, but once again he was inconsistent. Contreras was optioned to the minor leagues for approximately a month (May 5 May 21). His best start occurred on June 27, against the New York Mets. He struck out ten batters, but what was more important is that for the first time since being in Cuba, Contreras got to pitch in front of his wife, Miriam and daughters, Naylan and Naylenis. On July 31, 2004 Contreras was traded to the White Sox for pitcher Esteban Loaiza. Contreras would pitch inconsistently for the White Sox, up until the end of the season. On the last day of the season, he threw eight innings of two hit baseball earning his 13th win of the season. He would finish with a 5.50 ERA and 150 strikeouts in 170 1/3 innings between New York and Chicago.
2005: Breakout seasonEdit
The 2005 season began with mixed results for Contreras. The big righty started the season with five consecutive no-decisions and an ERA of 3.04, and struggled until the All-Star break, with a 4-3 record. The first game after the break (July 14), Contreras pitched extremely well, beating the Indians 1-0. As the White Sox raced to the playoffs in the second half of the 2005 season, Contreras became Chicago's most reliable pitcher, winning his last 8 starts and on occasion halting the team's losing streaks. One of the main reasons was the way he pitched. With the help of fellow Cuban Orlando Hernández, Contreras began dropping his arm angle during his delivery. Contreras would also contribute the 3 postseason victories that tied Andy Pettitte for the most second half victories in the Major Leagues with 11, and he threw his first Major League complete game against the Minnesota Twins, on September 23 Contreras would finish the season 15-7 with a 3.61 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings.
Contreras started Game 1 of every series during the playoffs. He would win two of the three Game 1's. The one he lost was to the Los Angeles Angels, this allowed Contreras to earn the win in the pennant clinching Game 5, the fourth consecutive complete game for White Sox starting pitching. Contreras would go 3-1, with a 3.09 ERA, 14 strikeouts, and only two walks. During Game 1 of the 2005 World Series, television commentators said that Contreras, who started the game for the White Sox, had his name banned from being mentioned in Cuba by order of President Fidel Castro.[source needed] White Sox games were also banned from Cuban television and could be seen only with illegal television satellites.[source needed] The White Sox went on to win the World Series in 4 games.
2006: In pursuit of historyEdit
The 2006 season began with Contreras inking a three year contract extension to remain on the South Side. Contreras started the season as well as he had finished the previous one. As of July 6, 2006, he was 9-0, with a 3.31 ERA and 71 strikeouts. On June 17, in an 8-6 win over the Cincinnati Reds, José pitched 6 innings and threw a career high 13 strikeouts as he broke the White Sox team record with his 16th consecutive regular-season win (previously 15 held by LaMarr Hoyt (1983-84) and Wilson Alvarez (1993-94)). Dating back to the 2005 season, Contreras won 17 consecutive games before finally taking the loss against his former team, the New York Yankees on July 14, 2006. Contreras was named by his White Sox manager Ozzie Guillén to the 2006 American League All-Star team, but was unable to play because he had thrown 6 innings and 117 pitches in a start just two days before the All-Star game. Guillen, the AL manager, replaced him with Minnesota Twins rookie Francisco Liriano. This enabled Contreras to become the first pitcher in 30 years to start 2 consecutive regularly scheduled games (see Trivia below).
Contreras suffered setback as a case of sciatica put him on the 15-day DL in May. Along with seeing his personal winning streak come to an end, Contreras finished the season with a 4.27 ERA, including a 5.40 ERA after the All-Star break.
In 2007 he led all major league pitchers in errors, with 6, and had the lowest fielding percentage among them, .818.
- He played with Cuban baseball greats Liván Hernández, Orlando Hernández, Ariel Pestano, Omar Linares, Orestes Kindelán, Pedro Luis Lazo, Norge Luis Vera, and others.
- Castro gave Contreras the nickname El Titan de Bronze (The Bronzed Titan), after the Cuban patriot Antonio Maceo.
- Despite popular belief, Contreras is only two years older than his listed age. In an interview, he unintentionally revealed he was thirty-two years old when he defected from Cuba. He was supposed to be thirty-two years old during the 2004 MLB season.
- On June 23, Contreras broke the White Sox team record of most consecutive wins by a pitcher in decided games. He recorded his 16th win against the Houston Astros.
- The start against the Yankees on July 14, 2006 that ended his consecutive win streak at 17 games produced a different piece of baseball history as well. With the help of the long All-Star break, Contreras started two consecutive regularly scheduled White Sox games. The last time any pitcher accomplished was in 1976 by Wilbur Wood, also for the White Sox (Freddy Garcia achieved this with the Seattle Mariners in September 2001, however his feat is given an "asterisk" because there were scheduled games in between that were cancelled immediately following the September 11 attacks).
- Contreras's wife and children also recently defected from Cuba, and Contreras is alleged to have paid to help them escape that country
- Along with Orlando Hernández, Pat Borders, and Doug Mientkiewicz, one of four players to have won both a World Series Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal.
- Contreras is a practitioner of Santería.
- ↑ Pinar del Rio - Etapa Clasificatoria: 41 Serie Nacional de Beisbol (Spanish). Granma. Archived from the original on 2013-01-05. Retrieved on July 24, 2006.
- ↑ Baseball Briefs. Lawrence Journal-Record. Retrieved on December 8, 2006.
- ↑ Contreras, Yankees agree to four-year deal. Associated Press. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
- ↑ Yankees acquire Loaiza from White Sox. Associated Press. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
- ↑ Contreras in control as White Sox win. Major League Baseball. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
- ↑ Kelly Theiser. Dye, Contreras pair up to oust Twins. Major League Baseball. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
- ↑ Contreras agrees to three-year extension with White Sox. Associated Press. Retrieved on July 4, 2006.
- ↑ Liriano, Eckstein Added to All-Star Game. SFGate.com (July 11, 2006). Retrieved on July 24, 2006.
- ↑ "Contreras nicknamed 'The Titan of Bronze' by Castro"", AP, March 13, 2003. Retrieved on 2006-08-20.
- ↑ Contreras' wife, two daughters are in Florida (June 24, 2004). Retrieved on August 20, 2006.
- ↑ Baxter, Kevin. "Religion under wraps", the Los Angeles Times, published June 26, 2007, accessed June 28, 2007.
|American League Pitcher of the Month|
September 2005-April 2006
C. C. Sabathia