Jose Contreras, this past weekend.
In two appearances out of the bullpen against the Atlanta Braves, May 8th and 9th, Contreras came up in the eighth inning and mowed down the seven combined batters he faced. In 11 pitches a game, he kept the Braves at bay and saw his ERA move down to 0.83.
Jose Contreras, one year ago.
Contreras was contributing to the struggles of the White Sox. After a May 8th outing against the Texas Rangers, he failed to get past the fourth inning for the second straight game, allowing three earned runs on 81 pitches in the loss. The bad news was his record plummeted to 0-5.
The good news, if you can call it that, was his ERA fell from 8.31 to 8.19.
Several days after this performance, just about a year to the day, Contreras was sent to the minor leagues on his suggestion, clearing waivers after no one else wanted him. At 37, perhaps he was done. He had a nice run, but maybe there was nothing left in the tank.
Fast forward to September. He had brought his ERA down near five, but where else is there to place a 37 year old with a 5-13 record? Perhaps the bullpen? Contreras was to be placed in the bullpen for the White Sox, but instead was sent to the Colorado Rockies.
Jose Contreras, eight months ago.
After two starts for the Rockies, he strained his thigh and had to miss a couple weeks. When he returned to pitch, the light bulb went off in manager Jim Tracy's head and Contreras was quietly placed into the bullpen. He allowed one earned run in five relief appearances and brought his ERA under five with his final performance of the season.
He was on the roster for the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies, and in two appearances in the sixth inning, he allowed one earned run. His second appearance was lackluster, but in the first he threw nine of 10 pitches for strikes, and kept the Phillies from scoring as the Rockies went on to win game two.
The Phillies must have sensed something during that game.
Jose Contreras, four months ago.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago Cubs were extending offers and getting a look at him. A couple weeks latter, the Philadelphia Phillies take a look as well. By the end of the month, Contreras' name was on the contract and he was given a spot in the bullpen.
Ruben Amaro described the signing as a "leap of faith," understandably so as he was now 38, and there was no telling what he might bring to the table. For $1.5 million though, he could provide a good amount of bullpen help as a middle reliever or setup man.
Jose Contreras, today.
To say the deal has worked out is an understatement. He has allowed a single earned run in 12 appearances, and has thrown 15 strikeouts alongside a single walk. He has not pitched over an inning in a game or over 20 pitches, and is able to focus his best stuff into his game as a result.
There was even talk about using him as a temporary closer, though that did not come to fruition. Clearly, the man with the 98 mph fastball and the nasty splitter is back, and he has been a key figure in solidifying the Phillies as the top team in the National League. He's back, ready to strike down other teams, and the Phillies would not want it any other way.