Contreras Makes MLB Debut

Just when Cincinnati had already put on a stellar performance over the first eight innings of Saturday's game they capped it off with young Carlos Contreras who tossed a scoreless frame to finish the contest in his MLB debut. He took the hill after nary a AAA appearance and brings enough heat to keep him around a while if his command permits.

There were a lot of fireworks from the Reds offense Saturday when they cruised to an 11-1 win over visiting Toronto. For the second game in a row they broke out of the gate with an early lead in the fourth inning. Instead of relinquishing it like they did in the previous game the Reds kept their foot on the throttle and brought home an easy win. There were a couple of homers for the home team off the bats of Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce. On the hill Mike Leake gave a great effort, allowing only one run/four hits in eight innings just one day after the Blue Jays worked over the Reds' pen in their huge comeback. With all the excitement in the first eight innings, many might have considered the ninth a bit forgettable in the blowout contest. Carlos Contreras would not be among those with that opinion.

Contreras realized a dream in that ninth inning when he made his MLB debut. He did it in style too, by retiring the side in order and topping it off with a strikeout of Colby Rasmus who in his previous at-bat provided the Jays' only run on a homer that led off the seventh. All in all he couldn't ask for a better greeting to the show, needing only nine pitches to finish the inning, six of which were strikes. It was a tiny sampling, but a good one and certainly merits an appearance number two.

It's been a long trip for Contreras since he debuted professionally at the age of seventeen in 2008 after the Reds signed him to a free agent contract out of the Dominican Republic. Actually after a couple of years his stats did not make him look like a candidate to make it off the island when he was sitting on an ERA over six in 31 DSL appearances. However, make it off he did and he didn't fare any better in Arizona in 2010. Cincinnati must have seen something that belied his stats and moved him up the Billings in 2011 where he finished with a flat five ernie in eighteen games.

Some may have considered the Reds downright stubborn when the proceeded to promote him again to Dayton in 2012 and if that was the case then stubbornness paid dividends. He spent that season as a lockdown closer while splitting the season between the Dragons and high-A Bakersfield. After completion of the season that effort was awarded by a spot on the Cincinnati 40-man roster.

So he's looking like a top relieving prospect in the system? Not so fast, his initial success was enough to prompt his employer to send him back to the Bakersfield to go into the Blaze rotation the next seaon, a spot he'd not been since 2009 in the Dominican League. He started in the Cali League last year but he didn't finish there but instead moved up again after a promotion to Pensacola.

Though he kept a sub-three ERA against Southern League hitters, it was over less than half a season so he went back to work there to begin this season. This time around he kept his ERA around 2.70 while pitching both in the rotation and out of the bullpen. That must have been enough for the Reds because he was jumped over AAA Louisville before making his debut this weekend.

No doubt one thing that kept interest on him during the early struggles was his velocity that occasionally lit up the radar gun in the high-90's. He lost a couple of ticks with the extra work load in the rotation, but there's reason to believe that could come back while he works as a reliever. Actually his build (5'11"/205#) may keep him there. If he does ever move back into the rotation it won't occur until he drops his walk rate which has never been below mid-three per nine innings in any of his minor league seasons. Actually he'd been very generous with the free passes this year, issuing a whopping five per nine, but striking out over twelve per nine wipes out some of that. He's not going to duplicate that against MLB batters nor will he hold them to a batting average below .200 like he did his AA competition.

Right now Contreras is 23 years old and working in a MLB bullpen. How long he stays there remains to be seen, but given some of the struggles and injury history of the Cincinnati relief corps this year it goes to figure that he can remain with that bunch as long as he's successful. Reds manager Bryan Price has put the ball in the hands of fourteen different relievers coming out of the pen already this season and there's still 88 games left to play.

Given enough opportunity opposing hitters will eventually touch him up for some runs, just like AA hitters did seven times this year. It's likely too that his velocity might draw more attention in a bullpen that did not have Aroldis Chapman's triple digit heat. In the meantime things are going to be very exciting for the young Contreras while he's up with parent team, regardless what the score may be.


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