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.
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.