This could be the end of the road for Jose Contreras. The 41-year-old right-hander was released by the Pirates this afternoon in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for right-hander Charlie Morton, who is making his return from Tommy John surgery today against the Giants.
Contreras underwent Tommy John surgery last year and signed a minor league deal with the Pirates over the winter. After making seven appearances in the minors, he joined Pittsburgh’s bullpen in early May and allowed five runs on seven hits and six walks over five innings prior to landing on the disabled list with lower back inflammation three weeks later. Now the Pirates have decided to turn the page.
Signed out of Cuba by the Yankees in 2002, Contreras owns a 4.57 ERA over 175 starts and 124 relief appearances in the majors. He enjoyed the bulk of his success as a starting pitcher with the White Sox from 2004-2009, including 15 wins and a 3.61 ERA during when the team won the World Series in 2005. He made his lone All-Star appearance in 2006.
Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman has played in exactly one Grapefruit league game this year, and that was way back on March 2. Since then he has been totally absent from the Nats’ big league spring games, playing instead on the back fields in sim games and in minor league contests.
While that’s not an unusual course of action for an injured or rehabbing player, both Zimmerman and the Nationals insist that there is nothing wrong with him. Per this report from MASN’s Mark Zuckerman, they’re saying that Zimmerman “simply prefers to get his work done in the more controlled environment of minor league games, where the rules are lax.” He doesn’t have to dive for balls, he can lead off every inning, etc. Manager Dave Martinez says Zimmerman simply doesn’t like the usual spring training grind and that this is working for him so he’s fine with it too.
Are you buyin’ that? Not sure I’m buyin’ that.
I suppose weirder things have happened. The Minnesota Twins once let Jack Morris go back to his farm in between starts rather than stay with the club. Other accommodations have been made for veterans, especially in spring training. But this is way more in keeping with a team hiding an injury. Though I have no idea why the Nats would choose to hide an injury to Zimmerman. They’ve talked at length about Daniel Murphy‘s knees and Adam Eaton‘s seemingly never-ending rehab. If Zimmerman has some aches and pains, you’d think they’d talk about it.
On the other hand, if this is a legit story and it is simply an accommodation for a veteran who doesn’t like the normal spring training grind, look for Zimmerman to be a trailblazer, because there are a LOT of dudes who hate spring training too and would love to change things up like this.