By GEORGE KING | New York Post
New York Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras throws against the Texas Rangers Saturday afternoon, May 22, 2004, in Arlington, Texas. Texas won the game, 4-3. (AP Photo/Linda Kaye)
When George Steinbrenner discussed bringing Contreras back to the big leagues after just two minor-league outings, Connors, the organizational pitching guru, and Blakeley, the guy who signed the Cuban right-hander to a $32 million deal, said several times Contreras was prepared mentally and physically.
So, with eyebrows raised throughout the Yankees’ universe, Contreras faced the muscular Rangers yesterday at Ameriquest Field and showed for one day that Connors and Blakeley were correct in telling Steinbrenner there wasn’t anything else for the righty to gain by facing Triple-A hitters.
They were on the money since Contreras, who went back to his old windup in which he brings his hands over the head, gave up one run, three hits and fanned seven in six innings.
“I was happy with my work, I was able to maintain control of the game for six innings,” said Contreras, who would have worked the seventh if not for a cramp in his right hand that produced a tingling sensation.
Contreras, who blamed the cramp on the heat, said he was fine.
The key to Contreras pitching effectively yesterday was having a clear mind.
“I knew physically I was fine, but mentally I had too many things in my head,” said Contreras, who gave up a first-inning homer to former Yank Alfonso Soriano, walked one and hit another but only surrendered that one run. “I was able to clear my head. I knew I was going to come back and pitch a good game.”
Yankees GM Brian Cashman admitted this week that he would need to look for a starter if Contreras didn’t pitch effectively when recalled from Columbus. After yesterday’s effort, Cashman won’t be begging for an arm.
“That’s the best game he has pitched by far,” Joe Torre said. “Getting out of the [first inning] should help him. It was a big test and he passed it. He is not on a game-to-game leash. Today was big-time stuff.”