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 Post subject: Ex-Yank wins 15th straight
PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 4:48 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 09, 2002 12:01 am
Posts: 1286
Location: Saranac Lake, N.Y.
The Yankees gave up on Jose Contreras and traded him for Esteben Loiaza a few years ago. Now he's won 15 in a row, and Loiaza is pitching for Oakland with a 6.13 ERA. Who, if anyone, did the Yankees get for Loiaza?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 13, 2006 7:49 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 01, 2003 1:01 am
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Location: The Empire State
The Yanks let Loiaza go as a free agent after the '04 season.

No doubt, this is the Contreras the Yanks and Red Sox were bidding for before the 2003 season. I don't think he ever would have achieved what he's achieving now in New York or in Boston. In Chicago, Contreras has a manager who speaks Spanish and far less of a burden on his psyche.

Also, not to slight Mel Stottlemyre, but White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper seems to be doing a bang-up job on the order of Leo Mazzone's Atlanta efforts (his Baltimore efforts don't seem to be bearing as much fruit).


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2006 2:09 am 
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Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 2:05 am
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Location: Chicago
Don't forget, many credit Orlando Hernandez with helping Contreras rediscover his old self. Hernandez -- another Yankee cast-off who helped the White Sox mightily in '05 (remember his appearance against Boston in the ALDS?) -- was said to have helped his countryman settle down. By the All-Star break, Contreras was rolling, and his record could have been even better had it not been for a string of no-decisions early in the season. I wonder whether Contreras would have bloomed in Chicago, to the extent he has, had El Duque not been there.

Anyway, keep sending us your leftovers, Yankees ...

Sidebar: I went to my first Yankees game a few weeks ago (saw Jeter get his 2,000th hit), and though I previously never had anything nice to say about the Yankees, I was impressed. The fans in the section I sat in were knowledgeable, loud, and well-behaved. It was a very nice time even though we were rained on and the Yanks ended up losing to the worst team in baseball.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2006 11:46 pm 
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Location: The Empire State
Mr. V wrote:
Don't forget, many credit Orlando Hernandez with helping Contreras rediscover his old self. Hernandez -- another Yankee cast-off who helped the White Sox mightily in '05 (remember his appearance against Boston in the ALDS?) -- was said to have helped his countryman settle down. By the All-Star break, Contreras was rolling, and his record could have been even better had it not been for a string of no-decisions early in the season. I wonder whether Contreras would have bloomed in Chicago, to the extent he has, had El Duque not been there.

Anyway, keep sending us your leftovers, Yankees ...

Sidebar: I went to my first Yankees game a few weeks ago (saw Jeter get his 2,000th hit), and though I previously never had anything nice to say about the Yankees, I was impressed. The fans in the section I sat in were knowledgeable, loud, and well-behaved. It was a very nice time even though we were rained on and the Yanks ended up losing to the worst team in baseball.


Yep, Duque was apparently also a factor in Contreras' loosening up.

Glad you had a good time at the Stadium, Mr. V., but you got lucky in terms of the well-behaved section of fans. I say this as a 30-year veteran of attending games there who enjoys a good (fairly clean) roasting of the opposition as much as anyone, but Yankee fans (and New York fans in general, in all sports) are notorious for getting overserved and being as coarse and vulgar as any metaphorical or literal sailor you'd care to conjure. It's really too bad.

If I had kids, I'd be very hesitant to take them to a game for fear of having to explain all the four- and sixteeen-letter insults flying around, not to mention the entreaties to the distaff side to doff their tops and reveal their womanly charms.

In case you're ever back at the Stadium and want the best chance to duplicate your fan-friendly experience, try Section 13 of the Tier Reserved area. It's the alcohol-free section, and it's where I sit. Fortunately, and surprisingly, the stadium staff members are vigilant throughout the game about making sure no one returns to the section with beer or orders beer while there. Also, tickets are $18 to $20, a big break from the prices in the other sections.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 24, 2006 5:57 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 15, 2004 12:01 am
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Location: Champaign, Ill.
Mr. V wrote:
Don't forget, many credit Orlando Hernandez with helping Contreras rediscover his old self.


Including, apparently, Mr. Contreras himself.

The AP wrote:
Contreras finally delivers on promise

CHICAGO (AP) — He points to one moment, one conversation with his pal from Cuba.

Jose Contreras was struggling, and his friend Orlando Hernandez wanted to know what had happened to the pitcher who triggered an auction between the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox before ever slipping on a major league uniform.

So El Duque asked: "Why'd you stop throwing sidearm?"

The answer was that a coach in Cuba had told Contreras to stop, saying the herky-jerky motion would scratch valuable years off his career.

Contreras smiles.

"I regret it all the time, because I lost four years," Contreras says through an interpreter.

The way Contreras is pitching now, it's almost easy to forget that he was an example of "unfulfilled promise" not too long ago. The turnaround is as sharp as his splitter. Contreras dropped his arm angle and started living up to the hoopla that accompanied him to the United States and the major leagues.

Now look at him.

The right-hander set a club record Friday night by winning his 16th straight regular-season decision, allowing four runs in 6 1/3 innings against Houston to improve to 8-0. He's 16-0 in his last 21 regular-season starts, surpassing LaMarr Hoyt (1983-84) and Wilson Alvarez (1993-94). It's the longest streak in the majors since Minnesota's Johan Santana won 17 consecutive decisions from July 2004 to April 2005.

Contreras is a leading candidate to start the All-Star game, after struggling for several seasons to find some consistency.

The Yankees gave up on him. Chicago fans were frustrated early last season.

But the White Sox were patient with Contreras, and he led a surge to the city's first World Series title since 1917.

"Let me tell you something," pitching coach Don Cooper says, pointing toward Contreras' locker. "That one there, I've never seen anybody improve that much. Thank God he did, because we've all got rings."

Contreras' raw skills never were questioned.

He played seven years for the Cuban national team and went 7-0 with a 0.59 ERA in his last three major international tournaments against professionals — the 1999 Pan American Games, the 2000 Olympics and 2001 World Cup. He also pitched eight shutout innings of relief and struck out 10 in Cuba's 3-2 11-inning victory over the Baltimore Orioles in March 1999, three years before defecting.

Contreras established residency in Nicaragua and became a free agent, sparking a bidding contest between the Yankees and Red Sox. Contreras signed with New York for four years and $32 million.

He made six minor-league appearances before going 7-2 with a 2.78 ERA in 18 games (nine starts) with the Yankees in 2003, but was 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA in the postseason. And he continued to struggle the following season.

His ERA ballooned to 5.64 before the Yankees traded him to Chicago for Esteban Loaiza at the 2004 trade deadline, and Contreras didn't fare much better with the White Sox, posting a 5.30 ERA the rest of that season.

Cooper says Contreras was in "turmoil" — on and off the mound.
He was adjusting to a new country, starting with New York's blinding spotlight. His wife, Miriam, and daughters, Naylan and Naylenis, did not join him until June 2004. And Contreras has not seen his mother, siblings and other relatives since he left Cuba.
Although he says his family's situation had little to do with his struggles on the mound, he adds, "Put yourself in my shoes. Sometimes, when you see a pitcher pitching on the mound, you don't see the other side."

Cooper says, "If my family's not with me on a road trip for 10 days, I'm not quite the same. Compound that by saying they're in another country, they're in exile and you're not sure about their safety. Think how hard that may be to deal with."

On the mound, Contreras was a tease. Cooper saw a devastating splitter, fastball and curve. He also saw flawed mechanics and a pitcher tipping hitters while falling behind in the count.

That pattern continued through the first half of last season. Contreras went 1-1 in his first eight outings and was 4-5 with a 4.26 ERA before the All-Star break.

Cooper remembers showing Contreras what righties and lefties were batting against him, then asking, "What does this mean to you?" The averages were low.

So Cooper had another question: "How about you throw it over more?"

But the turning point probably was that talk with El Duque.
Contreras started dropping his arm and rediscovered his form, going 11-2 after the All-Star break and winning his final eight regular-season starts. He helped the White Sox hold off Cleveland for the AL Central title and started the first game of each postseason series, going 3-1 in four outings.

His reward was a $29 million, three-year contract extension that runs through 2009.

"You look at what he's done and the turnaround and the adjustments he's made, he starts with confidence," catcher A.J. Pierzynski says. "He's worked his way up. He's been awesome."

Contreras gets ahead of hitters now. He has 64 strikeouts and 25 walks this season, an improvement over his first 2 1/2 seasons — when his strikeout-to-walk ratio was about two to one.

"There are some great guys on this staff, but he's the guy who's impressed me since Day 1 last year," says pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who debuted last season. "He has unbelievable stuff, but he also has a great idea how to pitch. He also just has that extra thing in him that gets him out of jams. He avoids that little pitfall that a lot of other guys can run into."

When he was struggling, Cooper says, Contreras' problems were self-made. In a way, so is his success. Cooper marvels at Contreras' work ethic and says, "If you follow him around, you'll be tired — never mind trying to do what he does."

During spring training, Contreras shows up around 7 a.m. Between starts, the routine includes extensive running, weightlifting and various throwing drills. On game nights, he simply wears out the opposition.

Now he's relaxed and confident.

"This is the best moment I've had as a professional baseball player," he says with a grin.


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