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Perrotto: Roansy Contreras Setting Up for ‘Big’ Season

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Roansy Contreras, Oneil Cruz

BRADENTON, Fla. – Roansy Contreras, at least in one way, looks ready to have a bounce-back season.

The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander has bulked up. I’d like to say he is in the best shape of life, but I just can’t bring myself to use that timeworn spring training cliché.

“I feel good,” Contreras said before a recent workout at Pirate City. “I’m ready to have a good spring.”

The changes to Contreras’ body are noticeable after he spent most of the offseason working out at Pirate City complex.

“A lot of it is a credit to the hard work he’s put in, the time he’s put in in Bradenton,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “The other thing, and we forget it a lot, when he got to the big leagues he was just a kid. Now we’re seeing him start to grow into his body a little bit. That is really important.”

Indeed, Contreras is still just 24 years old, even though it seems like he has been in the Pirates’ organization forever.

The Pirates acquired Contreras from the Yankees in 2021, just three weeks before spring training began as part of a four-player package in a trade that sent right-hander Jameson Taillon to New York. Contreras followed a strong minor-league showing that year by making his major-league debut with a three-inning start in the final week of the season.

Just 21, Contreras looked like a big part of the Pirates’ future.

Contreras then went through an odd development plan in 2022. The Pirates had him start the season in the major leagues then shuttled him from Pittsburgh to Triple-A Indianapolis twice to reduce innings and lessen stress on his arm.

It might not have been as bad of the idea of developing catcher Henry Davis by playing him in right field last season in the major leagues. However, it was a plan that left Contreras clearly frustrated and didn’t seem to help him improve.

Then came a disaster of a season in 2023.

Contreras had a 3-7 record and a 6.59 ERA in 19 games (11 starts). Things got so bad that the Pirates not only sent him to the minor leagues but had him report to Pirate City when the pitching development staff tried to rebuild his delivery – and confidence.

Contreras never returned to the big leagues, finishing the season at Indianapolis where he made six starts. He had no record and a 4.96 ERA.

Now, it’s hard to tell how Contreras might fit into the Pirates’ plan in 2024.

Contreras is competing for one of two open spots in the starting rotation. He could also be moved to the bullpen and be utilized as a bulk-inning reliever.

If he does not make the opening-day roster, Contreras’ future would be murky. He is out of minor-leagues options and the Pirates would have to place him on waivers if they tried to send him to Indianapolis and hope he went unclaimed.

Shelton is hopeful of a turnaround from Contreras, saying “the ball is coming out of his hand freer than it was last year.” The manager also feels Contreras is sure of himself again.

“He’s more confident and … he’s just more fluid, the way he’s moving down the mound, the way his arm speed is,” Shelton said. “There’s just a lot of confidence there.”

It is difficult to predict Contreras’ career path. He has taken steps forward in the first week of spring training.

However, it will be difficult to gauge his’ progress until Grapefruit League play begins on Saturday. Opposing hitters will begin to start providing answers.

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